Update on Jamie Oliver (and a Sneak Peek at “Food Revolution,” Season 2)

by Bettina Elias Siegel on March 25, 2011

It’s been a while since I updated you on Jamie Oliver’s latest doings:

“Food Revolution” Returns for Season Two

As I reported here a few weeks back, the British celebrity chef ran into stiff opposition from the L.A. Unified School District when he tried to film season two of his Emmy-winning “Food Revolution” series there.

I wasn’t surprised by LAUSD’s decision — reality shows need drama, and LAUSD no doubt suspected it would be portrayed in an unflattering light, just as many felt the Huntington, West Virginia “lunch ladies” in season one were unfairly cast as villains for merely serving menus dictated by others.

In the end, Oliver agreed to help revamp LAUSD menus without actually filming in the schools and, according to the L.A. Times, he’s agreed to do so “following federal and local regulations and costing no more than 77 cents a serving. That’s how much the district says it has to spend on food, taking into account all the other costs of providing meals at nearly 1,000 sites.”

You can catch a sneak peek of season 2 of “Food Revolution” (which premieres April 12th) here:

New Food Initiatives

J.O. also recently announced a few new healthy food initiatives.  In partnership with the American Heart Association, he’s planning on opening several “Food Revolution Kitchens” around the country, community kitchens where people can learn basic cooking skills and nutrition information.  He’s also unveiled a new “Food Revolution” truck, a mobile kitchen and classroom that will travel in underprivileged L.A. neighborhoods and will no doubt make an appearance on his television show.

School Food Regulation Petition

Finally, Oliver is encouraging people to sign a petition asking federal legislators to prevent the new USDA school food regulations from being watered down under food industry pressure. You can sign that petition here.  (And remember, if you want to directly comment on the regulations, the period in which you can do so ends on April 13th.)

Update from Huntington, West Virginia

Meanwhile, since J.O.’s departure from Huntington, West Virginia last year, things are not going so well on the food reform front.  I’d already reported here that Oliver’s improved school food apparently is spurned by students and is being phased out.  More recently, it’s been reported that U.S. Foodservice, a Food Revolution underwriter, has

pulled what remains of the $25,000 in funding it pledged to Huntington’s Kitchen, the school that Oliver founded . . . .  Although the company’s executives initially paid plenty of lip service to the importance of “the health and success” of the community, they pulled their financial support — which was supposed to last a year — for the kitchen after eight months, taking with them the $5,000 still left in the budget. Oliver himself no longer has a financial stake in the kitchen, which in October received a $50,000 donation from a local hospital so that it could stay open for another year.

That’s depressing news on both counts, and it points up the enormous (some would say insurmountable) challenges anyone would face in trying to change the food culture of an entire city.  While Oliver’s successes on the ground may be limited, and while some write him off as a patronizing self-promoter, it’s indisputable that he’s succeeded in shining a bright spotlight on obesity in America, particularly childhood obesity, as well as our overly processed daily diet.

I’m curious to see what he plans for season two of “Food Revolution” and look forward to discussing it with you here.

 

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren March 25, 2011 at 9:13 am

Ahh. I adore him so very much.

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Renee March 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

Wow –77 cents/serving! Is that possible?

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Bettina Elias Siegel March 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

That does seem low to me, too. Houston is around $1 per serving, after non-food expenses.

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