Since I discovered Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” while writing last Monday’s blog posting, my family and I have become devoted fans of both the show and the man himself. I had heard of the British celebrity chef before, and a few years ago gave one of his cookbooks to my young nephew, George, for Christmas. George is a “foodie” from way back – according to his mom, he was eating black olives at the age of one, and started boycotting McDonald at the tender age of eight. At 13, George is on his way to being the best cook in a family of good cooks. George was way ahead of me and my family in joining the Jamie Oliver fan club, but as I mentioned we are now firmly in that group.
One thing I find interesting about “Food Revolution” from my perspective as a mother and educator concerned about climate change, is the resistance that Jamie runs up against time and time again when trying to change American’s attitude towards food. Several of the people he encounters in Episode One are openly hostile, even though Oliver has the numbers from the Center for Disease Control (aka “scientific proof”) to back up the claim that Huntington Virginia, the American city that he chose to launch his “revolution” in, is the unhealthiest city in the nation. Huntington has the highest obesity rate in an increasingly obese country, with the increased disease and death rates that go with that statistic. Yet, local radio show host Rod Willis who says “We don’t want to sit around and eat lettuce all day…I just don’t think you can come in and tell us what to do. Who made you the king?”
This is reminiscent of the tone of the climate change discussion in North America. We North Americans are addicted to our unhealthy fast food to fuel our bodies in the same way we are addicted to unhealthy fossil fuels to fuel our cars and our economy. Both the food system and the energy system are entrenched and efforts to change either of them come up against stiff resistance. And both are disastrous in the long-term, for our bodies’ health and the health of the planet.
The climate change deniers try to paint Al Gore as incompetent scientifically and money-grubbing, and attempt to refute the scientific evidence piling up against the claims that people can’t change the earth’s climate, or claim that climate scientists are conspiring to perpetrate a fraud on an unsuspecting public, and so on. One look around the streets of Huntington, and it’s abundantly clear that there is a problem with super-sized adults and children, with the correspondingly super-sized health problems. Yet, like the climate change deniers who wouldn’t recognize a melting glacier if it was sitting in their backyard, there are many people in Huntington who aren’t willing to acknowledge that there is a problem. And these same people seem very willing to attack Jamie for trying to bring attention to the disastrous diet that children are fed in the schools every day, and in many homes.
Yet Jamie soldiers on against the odds, because he seems to care deeply about giving children a better future. He works to change the food served to children one school at a time, against a system that calls a deep-fried chicken burger and fries a balanced meal because there’s an optional salad with it, and yet claims a 7-vegetable pasta dish isn’t balanced because “there’s not enough vegetables in it” (and yes, french fries are considered a vegetable!). Jamie Oliver is inspirational for me, both as a mom who has always tried to feed her family healthy food (with occasional lapses, I admit) and as a climate change activist. As he said to the skeptical radio show host, “If everybody in America was like you, nothing would get done.” That’s a good response to climate change deniers as well!
Here’s “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” Episode One, Part One:
If you want to watch more, most past episodes are available on YouTube.
If you want to show your support for Jamie, you can sign a petition. Click here to go to the petition page (if you are not in the USA, there’s a link to click on that will take you to an international petition).
If you’re on Facebook, you can click here to become a fan on the Food Revolution page.
Click here to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s article, “Why are Americans fat?” in The New Yorker, from July 20, 2009.