ONTD Political

friend's quote: What'd you know - White Foodie Jebus can't fix it all with Shame. Who'd have thunk?

12:41 pm - 04/15/2010

How TV Superchef Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' Flunked Out:After two months, kids hated the new meals, milk consumption plummeted, and many students dropped out of the school lunch program altogether.

Jamie landed on America's shores with the self-anointed mission to remake our eating habits for the better. Ground zero is Huntington, West Virginia. In an opening montage we are told the city of 50,000 "was recently named the unhealthiest city in America ... where nearly half of the adults are considered obese" as we see lardy folk shuffle through the frame.

While Jamie's efforts touch on many problems of school food -- from overuse of processed foods to lack of funding to French fries being considered a vegetable -- the "Food Revolution" is a failure because the entertainment narrative is unable to deal with complexities or systemic issues. Instead, all problems are reduced to individual stories and choices. The series may sprinkle some facts and hot-button issues into the mix, but what keeps the viewer hungering for more is the personal dramas, conflicts and weepy moments that are the staples of reality TV.

Because Jamie is packaged as a one-man whirlwind, tangling with "lunch lady Alice" while "Stirn' things oop," there is no mention of the existing, deep-rooted movement for local, healthy food from the farm to the market to the table, as well as schools. It's also more fun and shocking to "slag off" a poor school district in Appalachia for serving pizza and flavored milk for breakfast than to examine how West Virginia has imposed some of the strictest school nutritional standards in the nation. But that's entertainment.

The reality behind "Food Revolution" is that after the first two months of the new meals, children were overwhelmingly unhappy with the food, milk consumption plummeted and many students dropped out of the school lunch program, which one school official called "staggering." On top of that food costs were way over budget, the school district was saddled with other unmanageable expenses, and Jamie's failure to meet nutritional guidelines had school officials worried they would lose federal funding and the state department of education would intervene.

In short, the "Food Revolution" has flunked out. At Central City Elementary, where Jamie burst in with loads of fanfare, expense and energy, the school has reintroduced the regular school menu and flavored milk because the "Food Revolution" meals were so unpopular. In what looks like a face-saving gesture, Jamie's menu remains as a lunchtime option, but given the negative student response, don't be surprised if it's quietly phased out by next school year. (You can see both menus here.)


To source, cook and get children to eat fresh, healthy local food we would need to double school food funding, get schoolchildren involved in growing and cooking their own food, ban junk-food advertising, slap a health tax on fast food, shift agribusiness subsidies to small, community-controlled farms, provide proper health care and nutrition education, and promote social and cultural changes in how American families exercise and approach, prepare and eat food. Then most children (and adults) would probably make healthy choices. But this would require a real revolution, not one manufactured for television.


The mantra of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" is choice. But America's ever-expanding waistline is caused by systemic issues: widespread poverty, sedentary lifestyles, junk-food advertising, a lack of health care, corporate control of the food system, the prevalence of cheap fast food, food designed to be addictive, and subsidies and policies that make meats and sugars cheaper than whole fruits and vegetables.

These factors make choice more of a construct. Many people opt for flavor-intense, highly processed, calorie-dense food because it's cheaper, easier and more fulfilling than cooking healthy foods from scratch. And there's no one helping to educate them and help modify their behaviors and habits because there is much more profit in the huge diet industry and obesity-related diseases than in prevention.So why is West Virginia's school food system the way that it is?

There's a whole lot of fatshaming going on too, which is absolutely disgusting and not in the least helpful.

And apparently he pulled off the same thing in Britain three years ago?

Also : Article about Huntington, Jamie Oliver show angers locals
Fawn Boyer of West Virginia believes that targeting a town where the average income is below the poverty line is hitting under the belt. She is the creator of the Facebook group I Bet This Fizzy Drink Can Get More Fans Than Jamie Oliver. Boyer admits that there is a problem with fast food places in Huntington. Also, she says, poverty burdens many residents of the town. What she disagrees with is the article in the Daily Mail portraying her town as a bunch of hicks who don't care about their children. "The article in the Daily Mail was very unrealistic. It feels like an attack on Huntington. If you research the CDC you find that the state of Mississippi has a higher obesity rating," Boyer said during a phone interview.

In a town where many of the state employees are making so little income that they qualify for welfare, it's unrealistic to expect people to be able to shop at the higher line supermarkets that offer organic foods, she says. "The truth is for many fast food and a big can of Spagettios is the only way a family can afford to feed their family."

Boyer thinks Oliver's ideals are wonderful; after all he is for promoting better health and diet for children. She mused that it would be great if the schools could serve organic lunches to students but knows that with the funding that is in place for West Virginia's schools, that is a pipe dream. Boyer also said that the city's YMCA is too expensive for most of the residents. "The city should create gyms so that everyone would have a place to go to exercise." In West Virgina there is talk in the government about a fat tax allowing insurance premiums to be higher for those who are overweight instead of funding for helping its citizens become healthier.

Boyer has not been to Huntington's Kitchen. She fears that Oliver's show will portray the town's people in a negative manner. "It seems like the show is exploiting the town." Still Boyer's beef isn't with Oliver, whose ideas she supports, but with creating a program that just may not be sustainable for the town. The overall message she agrees with is basic common sense but it shouldn't come at the cost of shaming one group of people. MORE
freebacon 15th-Apr-2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
I really liked that scene where he teaches the 12 year old to cook a healthy chicken stir fry.

It was really really touching and shows the basic intent of what he's trying to accomplish.

I like how the article doesn't mention that the elementary school in Huntington only had spoons as silverware.

That's just terrible no matter how you look at it.
unusualmusic 15th-Apr-2010 06:27 pm (UTC)
I like how the article doesn't mention that the elementary school in Huntington only had spoons as silverware.

That is extremely shitty. But wouldn't it come under the whole "The schools are cash strapped" thing?
bombazzinedoll 15th-Apr-2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
nope - they HAD knives, they just chose not to allow the kids use them. which led to a really interesting conversation about the school being willing to teach children basic math and english and so on, but not something as simple as practical table skills, like managing a fork and knife.
unusualmusic 15th-Apr-2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
*side eye* what was the excuse?
freebacon 15th-Apr-2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
I think it was the fact that knives could be classified as weapons?

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, I barely remember the rest of that scene.
unusualmusic 15th-Apr-2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
oh dear.
syzygy_lj 15th-Apr-2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
Actually, it was "Six-year-olds don't know how to use knives". Their excuse for not teaching them is that they don't already know how. Also "parental responsibility". I don't recall any mention of weapons.
syzygy_lj 15th-Apr-2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
Maybe in case a kid managed to slice themselves open with a butter knife?
bombazzinedoll 15th-Apr-2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
if I remember correctly, one reason was that one of the food the kids ate required a knife (until Oliver got there, it was all fries and hamburgers and sloppy joes and pizza), and the other was that they just didn't see the need.

until, that is, they saw kids ATTEMPTING to use the forks and knives issued them and failing miserably; then Oliver and the principal and a few of the other teachers went around the lunchroom and individually taught children how to manage said utensils.
keeni84 15th-Apr-2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
God, that's fucked up.
freebacon 15th-Apr-2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, but I think the overarching theme of the show was "Public schools need more funding", since last I checked he was trying to raise more funds for the school.

And I don't think Jamie was fat shaming at all, and I weigh 245. He's emphasizing the very real risks obesity will slap you with. He can't change the labryinthian maze of the food industry here (apparently this wasn't such a big deal back in the UK) but he's highlighting what the rest of us can do to help change things.
neurotic 15th-Apr-2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
It could come under the whole "ZERO TOLERANCE!!!!!111!" policy. I remember a kid (who was a teenager at the time- not in elementary or middle school) I knew brought in a cake to school that his mother made for someone's birthday, and it was accompanied by a PLASTIC KNIFE. The administrators got in such an uproar about it, and the kid nearly got suspended.

I get that you don't want kids bringing machetes and steak knives to school, because they could be weapons, and weapons don't belong at school. But a PLASTIC KNIFE that was serving a very specific purpose, and wasn't taken out and played around with during class? That's ridiculous.
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