Jamie Oliver: The School-Lunch Revolutionary
Food activist and star of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”user rating
Jamie Oliver first tackled school-lunch reform on his home turf in Britain, before bringing his cause and cameras to the U.S. Last spring marked the premiere of ABC’s “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” series, in which he worked to instill some culinary sense into the people of Huntington, W.Va., one of the unhealthiest cities in the nation. For its second season, Oliver’s show has taken on the Los Angeles Unified School District, where district officials notoriously have met him with resistance, not for his message, they claim—but for the cameras. Undeterred, Oliver uses his Food Revolution truck, outfitted with a school-style kitchen, to spread the healthy-cooking gospel.
“Kids matter, man,” says Oliver. “Our children have the right to good food. Non-processed, fresh food, cooked by someone who cares.” Oliver says there was “no specific moment, really,” when he realized that he wanted to take on a cause larger than any restaurant.
“At home back in Britain, I realized that the food the schools were feeding children was horrific and no one was doing anything about it. As a chef who knows the power of television, I wanted to film the process of changing school food and create a campaign for the British public to get involved. And it worked. It's inspiring to see that people can make change when they care about something enough to fight for it,” says Oliver, who calls that campaign his proudest professional moment.
“I will only be prouder when we get the American government to do the same,” he continues. Not only does he want to teach kids how to eat right, but also he wants them to master some cooking basics.
“With the current health statistics on childhood obesity and diabetes, it’s a crime that food education isn’t a requirement in every single school in America,” Oliver says. “Chefs are the right people to move mountains on food because no one knows better how to cook it and where it comes from. And, luckily, we’re famous enough now that people want to listen to us.”
He stops short of saying that all chefs have a responsibility to jump on the healthy-eating bandwagon. “I don't think anyone has a responsibility to do anything but follow their heart and their conscience,” he says. But, he stresses, “You don’t have to be on TV to make a difference or to teach others how to cook. Teach a friend, a family member, kids in a classroom.”
Oliver continues, “Just share your knowledge with people. And, yes, please buy the best ingredients you can afford and treat them with respect.” —Pascale Le Draoulec
Pascale Le Draoulec is a James Beard Award–winning author who has written about food and restaurants for more than 15 years.