Had to rush from last night’s food dye Twitter party to watch J.O.’s second episode of “Food Revolution”- what a crazy night!
Anyway, here’s my recap and first impressions of the show:
As with the first episode, there was a lot of slamming LAUSD for not letting J.O. into L.A. schools with cameras. I still don’t feel that LAUSD was unjustified in barring filming (remember, they’re OK with him coming in without cameras, something J.O. never tells us), but what a PR nightmare LAUSD has created for itself! There were lots of comments and asides by J.O, that make the district look like it’s engaging in the worst sort of cover-up (“LAUSD would prefer me behind bars than in their kitchens!”), no doubt leading most viewers to wonder what sort of horrors are going on in that central kitchen. . . .
Meanwhile, Jamie enlists LAUSD parents to don silly vegetable costumes (you knew those would make an appearance) and hand out free healthy lunches to kids while drumming up support against the school board. Jamie tells us the sack lunches of milk, fruit and a Southwestern wrap are “on budget.” Does that mean, made for around a dollar a meal, the amount most districts can spend on food? I would love to know.
J.O. then finds one LAUSD school to let him on campus with cameras — West Adams Prep, a public charter school — but he still isn’t allowed to go into the school kitchen and instead is assigned to work with a group of culinary students. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this portion of the episode was by far the most powerful and authentic. Jamie meets a Hispanic student, Sophia, whose entire family has been devastated by diabetes. She’s lost both grandparents to the disease, both parents have it, and – shockingly – her 13-year-old sister was diagnosed with it when the sister was only ten. Sophia, who is overweight and whose family hasn’t changed its eating habits at all (they still eat fried food at least twice a week, she says), feels resigned to be next in line for the disease. It was a moving moment, and brought home far better than anything else in the show the fact that our country is in the midst of a public health crisis. Against the backdrop of Sophia’s story, Jamie’s call for a “revolution” feels legitimate, and not like a trumped-up schtick for reality T.V.
But speaking of schtick, mid-episode we revisit Dino, the guy whose fast food restaurant J.O. is trying to overhaul. I still find this whole segment a bit puzzling — just because Dino is afraid to turn his successful business over to a complete stranger (and one who doesn’t have a great track record of instituting changes with long term success – just ask Huntington, W. VA) doesn’t really tell me anything meaningful, except that Dino is a smart businessman. We see J.O. come up with a healthier burger (430 calories to Dino’s 800-1,500, and with wholesome meat) at the same $4.85 price point that Dino uses. (Helpful side note to J.O. — while I can maybe give you a Cockney pass for calling every single woman you meet a “girl” and every girl, “baby,” you’d be well advised here in America not to call Dino’s Hispanic fry-cook a “boy.”)
The most telling moment in this whole segment was when Dino reveals that his beloved father, the founder of the fast food restaurant, died of diet-related heart disease. It’s hard to believe that Dino doesn’t connect his dad’s death to the types of food he currently sells, but of course many people are able to compartmentalize that way, and continue eating unhealthfully despite the risks.
The show ends with Jamie being told that his filming permit with the charter school has been revoked by LAUSD (yet he’s still there with cameras, so not sure what this really means) and is told by the hipster charter school guy that LAUSD has forbidden him from even asking any West Adams students about their school food. This censorship just seems beyond stupid on LAUSD’s part — now I really am wondering what on earth they’re serving these kids . . . . forget pink slime, now I’m envisioning Soylent Green.
Note to LAUSD – FIRE YOUR COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR!
OK, those are my hastily written two cents. What did you think?