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  • Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Episodes 1 & 2

    fromartz_3-26_campaign-imageOver the next few weeks, I will share my opinions on each episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (ABC, Fridays, 8 p.m.).  I encourage you to leave your comments and thoughts as well.

    These posts are not meant to be recaps; they assume you have seen each episode.  If you are Tivo-less or did not have a chance to watch an episode during its original run, you can always head over to the Food Revolution page on ABC.com.

    This week had a back-to-back twp-episode special.  I will comment on both episodes in this post.

    WHAT I LIKED:

    • Jamie himself! In a television land littered with over-the-top gurus (i.e.: The Biggest Loser’s obnoxiously tough-loving Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, Celebrity Fit Club‘s “I’m a tough former marine, hear me roar” Sergeant Harvey Walden, the overly-polished Dr. Oz), Jamie Oliver just… is.  Whereas two continuous hours of any of the previously mentioned “personalities” would be as pleasant as hammering my toes hard for me to sit through, I thoroughly enjoyed Jamie.  The lack of Chiclet-like beaming veneers, bulging muscles, designer clothing, and Stepford-ish manufactured quips is a breath of fresh air on network television.
    • Realistic resistance.  While we can’t forget this is reality television (we are shown a very small percentage of what was filmed, and it is presented to us in a very carefully edited fashion), I appreciated the realism depicted.  The Edwards family did not magically give up pizza and soda overnight, nor were the elementary school students begging for more of Jamie’s salad the first day they tried it.  This is precisely why we are talking about a food revolution; this is massive change that happens gradually.
    • Kitchen confidential: I was so glad that this show depicted what takes place — and, most importantly, doesn’t take place! — in school cafeterias across the country.  Unused appliances, bundles of frozen processed food ready to be reheated, and who can forget those artificially colored hygrogenated oil-laden potato pearls?
    • The bigger issue.  I initially feared that this show would be too “micro”, and depict Huntington school officials as the ones who had complete authority over what students ate.  While the school officials’ lack of questioning (and sheep-like following) of USDA school lunch standards was disturbing, I was glad that the show briefly touched on the bureaucracy that surrounds school lunch (the best example being that every lunch must contain two grain servings).
    • Dollars and cents.  The scene in which Jamie first met with the elementary school’s director of food services, ended on a powerful last note.  The camera zoomed in on the words “all about the $” on a whiteboard.  That served as an important reminder that schools in the United States are under very tight budgets when it comes to school lunch.
    • The first five minutes.  Pizza and sugary cereal floating in fluorescent sugar-spiked milk for breakfast.  You couldn’t have asked for more powerful — and horrifying — images.

    WHAT BOTHERED ME:

    • What happened to the 3 Rs?: The complete absence of recycling absolutely bothered me.  I don’t expect Jamie Oliver to tackle that as well, but my blood pressure rose significantly every time I saw a plastic milk bottle get thrown into a regular trash can.
    • Food waste.  I understand that showing the gallons of chocolate milk consumed on a weekly basis makes a strong point, but I never like to see food wasted for the sake of making a point.  A part of me hopes that the “chocolate milk” poured into that parachute was dyed water?  Maybe?  Perhaps?  Anyone?
    • Meat, meat, and more meat.  I wish Jamie would have prepared at least one meatless meal at the school cafeteria.  A bean-based chili, pasta primavera, or rice and beans would have easily made the point that a filling meal can be done without the presence of meat on a plate.  This is not about converting anyone to vegetarianism, but to help people think outside the prevalent “one meat and two veg” box.
    • Adults matter, too.  When Jamie discussed the cafeteria’s overly processed offerings to the cooks, he was met with “so what?” attitudes and responses along the lines of “I eat that all the time.”  In one instance, Jamie responded by saying “it doesn’t bother me that adults eat it.”  While I understand the angle this show is going for is the “think of the children!” one (which always strikes a chord with viewers), healthy eating is just as important for adults.

    I’m looking forward to next week’s high school episode.  It should present a larger challenge, since dressing up as a vegetable and doling out “I tried something new!” stickers are not going to prove effective.

    I am glad the show is tackling an entire school system, rather than only focusing on the much-easier-to-mold-and-entertain pre-school and elementary school students.

    Share

    8 Comments

    1. Marianne said on March 27th, 2010

      The lack of recycling/composting of the lunch waste completely blew me away as well. Obviously that’s not the focus of the show, but OMG, to watch all of that material chucked into the trash hurt. I didn’t realize there were schools in North America that didn’t do their part to help save the planet – but again, my frame of reference is the west coast of Canada, and we’re all eco-yuppies up here ;)

      What bugged me about the school officials is that they harped so much on the kids “accepting the food” and not throwing it out. But when I watched them dump their trays of the processed food, it looked to me like they were tossing as much food out then too, so I don’t see the difference.

      I’m thinking that perhaps Jamie will venture into some non-meat based lunches in order to keep things under budget? Or are there some crazy USDA rules about that as well? Speaking of which – what’s the deal with needing two breads at every meal anyways?!

    2. Alex said on March 27th, 2010

      I completely agree with everything you said! The one thing I see differently is the “Adults matter too” segment. In the nutrition world along with you, I too agree that is is very important for adults to eat properly with fresh foods as well. My opinion on this subject is that adults have the opportunity to choose what they eat and if they cook or pick up prepared foods all the time. I believe the problem that exists is these children don’t know what vegetables are, they have never been exposed to a fresh food or ingredient and once these kids become adults, they will live the same way because they know nothing else. It seems most of the adults may in fact “know better” but they choose to eat such processed foods; now these children growing up are not able to make their own choices because they don’t even know what their other options are, they never were exposed or taught. Honestly everyone does have the right to choose to eat whatever they want (whether we agree with what they choose or not) but it’s these kids who never had a chance to choose something healthy because they don’t know what it is. I do completely agree with you but that was my take on that segment. I am very much looking forward to future episodes! Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    3. Jennifer in Saratoga said on March 27th, 2010

      Another memorable scene: that very hostile lunch lady demanding proof that British school children were allowed to use utensils to eat food, and Jamie almost breaking down in distress because she so clearly thought that kids could go through elementary school never eating food that might require a knife or fork. He was visibly distraught at the assumption that a diet consisting entirely of brown finger food is “good enough” for kids to grow up on. The anger and defensiveness he faced was stunning. And all those overweight children! How can those folks think everything is just fine?

    4. Tricia said on March 27th, 2010

      I want to say first, I love your blog and don’t comment…enough.
      Second, I did watch and watched again. I thought the same thing, and at the end when he was spilling food out, my hope was, they used the rest of that old food in part of the example… maybe? I wish it was greener, and as far as the cafe workers, he had enough to handle without “openly judging” what they eat (now) and I can only hope they change their minds as well.

    5. Andy Bellatti said on March 27th, 2010

      Marianne: Seeing as how pizza is an approved school meal, I don’t see why a non-meat lunch consisting of, say, brown rice, beans, and vegetables would be an issue.

      The “two breads” concept is ludicrous. The notion that a “one grain” lunch is unacceptable is mind-blowing. It comes back to “MyPyramid” standards, where grains are the base. And, since wheat is subsidized, certain grains are cheap, cheap, cheap. Schools aren’t serving whole wheat cous cous or amaranth….

    6. Andy Bellatti said on March 27th, 2010

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinions. What specifically bothered me about Jamie’s comment that he didn’t really mind if an adult ate all that processed food is that the statement bypasses an important point — parents set standards and are role models. I don’t find it helpful to have a child eating a non-processed lunch while Mom and Dad chow down on nuggets and slurp sodas. I am of the belief that if you don’t get the adults onboard, you are facing an even more uphill battle.

    7. Andy Bellatti said on March 27th, 2010

      Jennifer,

      I know! As if 6 year olds using knives were some alien concept. In fact, I remember when my family and I first moved to the United States from Argentina (at the age of 8), my parents could not believe the lack of coordination many of my classmates had (when they came over to my house for dinner) when cutting their food.

      Many of them would grab knives and forks awkwardly. Thinking back to my elementary school days (where at least students had the option of buying school lunch or brown-bagging it), most of the cafeteria food did not require the use of forks OR knives!

    8. Leigh said on March 28th, 2010

      I absolutely loved this show, and as an elementary teacher who has morning duty at breakfast, I see a lot. M/W/F are cereal days (usually Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms or Kix with 2% milk) and T/R are what I call “sticky days”: french toast, waffles or syrup with juice, milk and syrup. I’m happy to say that my kids really don’t throw anything away (we’re in a subsidized free and reduced lunch district and most of my kids wouldn’t get breakfast any other way) but it’s pretty much ridiculous what the kids eat–and then the teachers wonder why they’re all hyped up in the morning!

      I’m hoping this summer that I earn a spot in our Summer Trek program–a committee of teachers that help decide activities and projects for the next school year. My proposed project is a raised bed garden and a horticultural club. I’ll supervise students and we’ll all work together to build a school garden, cultivating and ultimately harvesting from it, hopefully using the foods in school lunch, and letting the students in the horticultural club take home co-op boxes to their families. My only concern is getting veggies that will be able to be harvested during school months. :)

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