Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Food Revolution

I confess to being intrigued by Chef Jamie Oliver's current televised project: Food Revolution. The British celebrity chef decided to jump the pond and come open a community cooking center, overhaul school lunches, and teach people to eat healthy in Huntington, WV - an area of the US with sky-rocketing obesity and diabetes rates.

I, for one, applaud him. From what I've seen so far on the show, he's not getting much applause. The "lunch ladies" are not applauding him – they are slightly offended.  Nor are the kids clapping yet - some spit out the first healthy lunch he made. He is getting support, however, from local pastor Steve Willis of the First Baptist Church. I'm glad to see the church being the church and interested in the health of the community.

Chef Oliver is known as “The Naked Chef.”  For the longest time I'd see his cookbooks in the bookstore with this slogan, and avoid picking them up.  And I was a little confused when I heard about him working in the school kitchens. Then I learned he got that nickname because he likes cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables - minimal processing, not minimal clothing. Ohhh. Now I can safely flip through his cookbooks.

So maybe I'm not the smartest artichoke in the bunch.

Just before the airing of Chef Oliver's Food Revolution show...
my daughter decided - on her own - to give up school lunches for Lent in favor of packing healthy stuff from home. "Why?" I asked. "Because I have a slight addiction to the Pizza Cart," she explained with a sheepish smile. I noticed during Lent she also ate healthier at home without prodding.

Did you know the US government considers batter coated french fries a serving of "fresh vegetables?"  That  fact really got to The Naked Chef.  It really gets to me too. French fries have been on the lunch list of "fresh" vegetables since 1996 under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. They are considered fresh because they fall short of the govt. guidelines that would qualify them as "processed." If battering and deep frying something in oil doesn't qualify as processed, I can't imagine what does.

I also saw a news segment on TV a few weeks back revealing that much of the inexpensive ground meat used in school lunches and fast food burgers has been washed with ammonia in processing plants because it is a cheap way to clean it. Have you read the warning and usage labels on ammonia bottles? Again, I'm not the smartest artichoke, but I know not to wash food in ammonia and then feed it to kids.

Have mercy, I'm just a bundle of heartwarming food-news today, aren't I? I’m full of all kinds of reasons we should pray before we eat. But maybe we can do something about this.  Maybe we can help convince the government we need better nutrition in the schools.  These are the nation's future leaders we're feeding.  If you want to put your name behind this Food Revolution campaign, go sign the petition Chef Oliver plans to take to the White House.

Meanwhile, Ann Cooper is an American chef and advocate of school nutrition who has made an impact in her area of CA.If you want to read her advice about things you can do at home to give your family better nutrition, here is an excerpt from her “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children.”

And if you're interested in catching Oliver’s show, it airs Friday nights on ABC

Thankful for good food and Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays.


  1. Rachel, I too was intrigued by this show and am also appalled at what the US Government assigns as a vegetable for food lunches. Do they really think all that processed food is good for the children? Obviously not with the obesity and diabetes battle going on in the US right now with the children. It's cheap and it's easy but our children are paying the ultimate price with their health.

    I won't go as far as to say you won't find any of that in my pantry, but I have long been working on cutting out hydrogenated oils and such and believe in the "naked" - the more fresh and natural the better.

    Remember the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away"? - I do try to make sure my boys get that EVERY day. Believe it or not my children do like the V8-Fusion drink which is a serving of fruit and vegetables. I know there is no substitute for the real thing, but with two picky boys it helps.

    It can be overwhelming to overhaul your pantry, but I have found that one step at a time is a step. Start with one thing and progress from there. That's what our family has done and it's working.

    I'm with you, Rachel.

  2. I have only seen one episode of this show... On the episode I saw, he was showing kids what all went into a chicken patty they serve in school lunches. I was amazed that even after he showed them what was in it and how it was prepared, every child there said they would eat it. And when asked why, they responded, because I'm hungry!

    Kids only eat what they are taught to eat! School lunches are in no way nutritious. I spent most of my school days taking my lunch, and am glad I did.

  3. Great article on "Family Nutrition." I particularly liked the "10 Things Parents Can Do ..." I don't want to be negative, but some of the women at P31 should heed that advice. I have followed most of the bloggers here for over a year and I am always surprised by how many of you seem to be battling weight issues, even though none of you looks overweight in your photos.
    Kate S.

  4. I've watched the show, too, Rachel, and my almost-16-year-old daughter has been riveted to it, as well. Last night, she and my 8yo son joined me watching it. Loved how he drew in the local radio personality.

    The 'Dawg' radio guy was this episode's 'villain,' but the biggest villains (other than the processed food) are Alice the lunch lady and that dietitian who comes in with her lips pressed together disapprovingly as she checks up on his menus.

    We think it's a great show.

  5. Hey friend, I love your post on this. I'm loving Jamie's show.
    Check out the yummy clean food recipes I'm posting on my blog.

  6. Hey Rachel!
    I just got your Proverbs 31 email and really enjoyed it. Saw your post on the Food Revolution and wanted to post!
    I also though the Food Revolution was a great thing. However, I looked into it a bit more and found out that there are actually quite a few problems with it (ie. he went way over budget, the show doesn't deal with structural problems) - a great and realistic critique on the show can be found here:
    Very important to look past the mainstream media's portrayal of things.

  7. Yay! Jamie Oliver! I've been a fan of his for a long time, so I was thrilled to start watching the show. I'm hooked.

    I think it's great that the show is getting people talking about what we feed ourselves and our kids. And, yeah, it's going to take more money to eat well, so it's no surprise the better menus were over-budget. Real food costs money, as much as we don't want to admit it...

    Anyway, I see where the AlterNet article is coming from, but I think the real value in the show is not the success or failure in Huntington in a few months or a year but the conversations it's starting across the country--like this one. That's where the true "revolution" will begin (or continue, if you will).


Chime in.