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Putting the Revolt Back in Revolution: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

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Putting the Revolt Back in Revolution: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

“The British are coming!” I could only imagine this forewarning was intoned countless times in the city of Huntington, West Virginia well before the famed Naked Chef Jamie Oliver ever set a foot on West Virginia soil. Judging from just a few hours spent with the enormously popular reality television show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” citizens of Huntington were apprehensive and leery of the sort of “revolution” Oliver was bringing to their shores.

As a brief overview, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is a six-part reality show on ABC in the style of “Extreme Makeover” but instead of plastic surgery and wardrobe changes, the bewildered citizens of blue-collar Huntington are getting a diet and nutrition overhaul. Recently, the city had been singled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the nation’s unhealthiest (read fattest).

Oliver, who has had phenomenal success in helping to reform the British school lunch program and middling success in getting people to eat things like tagine and pak choi, has made the transformation of this towns shoddy diet his personal raison d’etre. His mission is steeped in the sort of sincerity you are not likely to stumble upon while watching your run of the mill reality TV. Oliver pleads, he hectors, he even threatens to cry in an effort to inspire a population that would rather bury themselves in chicken nuggets followed by a chocolate milk chaser than subject themselves to a life bereft of trans fats and “brown food.”

His first attack is on (or more appropriately for) the youngest residents of Huntington, and those most at risk, as well as most apt to change. Oliver, with only the best intentions, immediately alienates himself and makes himself persona non grata among the school cafeteria crew (or the “lunch ladies” as he mistakenly likes to call them) when he suggests a menu that would require twice the work to serve up fresh and, relatively, healthy alternatives to fries and pizza. The blowback Oliver endures from staff, school administrators and children alike is both amusing and heartbreaking.

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Read more: Children, Diabetes, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Family, Fitness, Following Food, Food, Healthy Schools, , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

175 comments

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3:52AM PDT on Aug 21, 2011

I'm a big fan of Jamie. Love his recipes, his TV shows, and his books. His enthusiasm and sincerety are very appealing. The American "Food Revolution" was a revelation!

7:37PM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

I love Jamie...his determination, enthusiasm, wit, mission. Unfortunately, Americans want to eat sh!t and are close- minded...I know that's a broad generalization but it's largely true...and sad.

8:27AM PDT on May 25, 2011

I'm envisioning a new reality show...underfunded schools from around the country are selected to participate. They're given food-related challenges with celebrity judges and audience votes determining winners, and the prize is some kind of grant for the school and a dinner for the students prepared by celebrity chefs. By involving schools from around the country you get lots of viewers, which attracts sponsors, who fund the show. The network that produces the show could post challenges and recipes or how-tos online so other schools could try them too, encouraging local projects.

America may have begun with a shot heard 'round the world, but if Jamie Oliver really wants to start a food revolution here, he needs to use big guns.

11:13AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Can I use your image on my blog? Its also in regards to jaime olivers food revolution. I am trying to continue him revolution throughout brooklyn, NY.

11:13AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Can I use your image on my blog? Its also in regards to jaime olivers food revolution. I am trying to continue him revolution throughout brooklyn, NY.

11:13AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Can I use your image on my blog? Its also in regards to jaime olivers food revolution. I am trying to continue him revolution throughout brooklyn, NY.

2:01PM PDT on Sep 6, 2010

I think Jamie Oliver has done loads of good in the UK and in many places. I think he is very courageous in continuing what he is doing. Wish we had more like him in our schools, cafeterias at work places and wherever food is being served, as we could certainly learn a thing or two, that is if we are ready to learn!

6:29AM PDT on Sep 5, 2010

I love that show and I was shocked when the kids in one episode couldn't name the vegetables he was showing them (it was the common ones like carrots, tomatoes...).

8:35AM PDT on Jun 3, 2010

Sometimes it may help to work from both ends. Working with the kids to get them to try new things and working with the food industry to revitalize what they are making, preparing, and handing over as acceptable or adequate.

6:29PM PDT on May 29, 2010

Uninformed? Why do you people always use this term? Nobody is uninformed. We have all been hearing about eating healthier for centuries. I would think that if you have heard it for centuries and your still eating unhealthy foods ,its not because your uninformed. Its more because you just plain don't wish to eat like everyone else is trying to force you to do.

I say ,if its your thing to eat healthy ,then do it. Otherwise leave everyone else alone and let them eat what they want.
We're taught in schools what is healthy and what is not. We're taught at home what is healthy and what is not. We're taught through T.V. Books,Internet,and god know where else. If a person is eating Pizza ,and Pizza is considered unhealthy,then it seems this person has made their choice. So Let it be.

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