Home Health On The Small Screen Why Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Breaks My Heart

Why Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Breaks My Heart

by Erika Nicole Kendall

So, I know I’m late in writing about Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (JOFR), but I really needed to sort out my thoughts on it, first.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not much of a pop culturist. If I didn’t have twitter already, I might never know what a twitter is. I know that’s shameful, ’cause I’m too young to be this far out of the loop.

All that aside, I happened to catch the preview episode of Oliver’s new show a few weeks ago, and I was excited. Impressed. Intrigued. Then… kinda sorta dropped back into reality.

The show has its pros and cons.

For me, a major positive is the fact that Jamie discusses the food we’re eating and what’s so wrong with it. As you’ll see in the video linked above, the show goes into detail about some of the food we’re eating. I mean, detail. Be sure to watch that episode I have linked above… it’s rough. It’s also reflective. It makes you think about yourself and what you might be putting your body through.

For example: Jamie opts to break down to a group of middle schoolers what, exactly, a chicken patty is made of. (Mind you, all inexpensive chicken nuggets/patties are made this way.) The breasts, legs, thighs and wings are removed because those can be sold for profit. The remains of the chicken – bones, carcass, all that – are then thrown into an industrial grade processor that grinds it all up into a moldable paste. The paste is mixed with a little water, the hardest chunks are sifted out, and then the rest is molded together to make the chicken patty. Most inexpensive dishes and TV dinners that include chicken get their chicken from this method. At this point, he asks the grossed-out kids if they’d still eat it anyway. They all said yes.

Another plus is the fact that it covertly discusses how our environments affect our eating habits. Our environments enable our good habits as well as the bad. If you look at Huntington as a case study, you’ll see that the community makes it easy to overindulge. Lots of fast food, lots of quick eats, and very little oversight. Not to mention one of Jamie’s “enemies,” the local radio DJ Rod, with quotables such as “We don’t want to sit around eating lettuce all day.”

Sigh.

That leads me to what I dislike about the show. Small in number, but big issues that need addressing. I’m pretty much on the same page as Jamie but I know – as I and many of this site’s visitors have said – that you can’t just go in and ambush a community, essentially tell them “You’re doin’ it wrong. Let me fix you.” and expect full and total commitment from them. I mean, really – it’s more insulting than it is reflective of the message in his heart. I don’t even think that was Oliver’s intention, but the purpose of his mission is important enough to take the risk of offending a few folks and having the local talking head talk down to everything you attempt.

Another thing. When you talk food, you have to talk money:

At the end of one episode, we hear Rhonda McCoy, director of food services for the local county, tell Jamie that he’s over budget and did not meet the fat content and calorie guidelines, but she’s going to let him continue with the “revolution” as long as he addresses these issues. What is not revealed is that the “meal cost at Central City Elementary during television production more than doubled with ABC Productions paying the excess expense,” according to a document obtained by AlterNet from the West Virginia Department of Education.

It undermines the very goal that JOFR set out to reach for the show to ask a school system to adopt a meal plan that is so grossly out of budget. School systems operate on so little as is – school systems and education in general are usually the first place state budgets go to make cuts – that to leave them [potentially] optimistic about undertaking this challenge, only for them to realize they couldn’t afford it without ABC’s financial assistance sets a dangerous precedent. It tells other school systems that they shouldn’t even bother trying unless they can double their budgets for food.

The article lets you in on a little secret, below:

Another reason Central City Elementary uses processed foods is budgeting issues. The federal government reimburses schools a paltry $2.68 for lunches and $1.46 for breakfasts (pdf) for children who qualify as long as the food meets specific guidelines. Goff, of the Office of Child Nutrition, says in Cabell County, where the elementary school is located, “they are cooking from scratch 50 percent of the time.” He adds that “50 percent of the cost to produce a meal is in the form of labor. It’s kind of hard to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. You pay a premium for those.”

Poppendieck says after school districts pay for labor, equipment, administration, transport, storage and other expenses, it leaves them with “somewhere between 85 cents and a dollar” for the actual ingredients for lunches. For breakfast, even assuming a generous ratio for purchasing ingredients, Central City has perhaps 60 cents to buy the food for a government-approved, reimbursable meal. Try buying breakfast for 60 cents; it won’t even get you a Snickers bar.

So, really… keep it real. Money is hard enough to come by in a school system.. if JOFR can’t put together a respectable way for school systems to pay for these additional costs, the entire effort is gone. And you can’t reach the kids without educating the adults first. The adults won’t co-sign (financially or argument-wise) an effort they can’t understand.

So, what do I think? I think JOFR is worth watching, absolutely. There are lots of take-aways, here. I think he highlights major problems in our school systems that need to be brought to the attention of those who care. I think he shows what can be done with the American people when we believe and put forth effort to see it through. I’m not appreciating this news about affordability – as it only perpetuates the myth that one must offer up their first born to eat healthy – but I look forward to seeing some kind of addition to the show that shows how schools are making it work.

In short, on Friday nights – check your local ABC channel listings for the specific time – I’ll be on my elliptical grinding away to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. What about you?

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50 comments

ChellBellz April 9, 2010 - 7:49 AM

Wow…i think that a lot of the people who are trying to spread the word of good food choices don’t realize that the money is the huge issue. I love Michelle Obama in all her grace but if most states school systems are laying off children, extra ciric actitivies and everything the last thing they are thinking about is funding for lunches.

Its a sad situation, but at the same time i’m sure when money permits they will attempt to serve something better.

Erika April 9, 2010 - 7:56 AM

I agree wholeheartedly… but it’s a combination of things – things that are probably too lengthy for a comment – that are getting in the way. That’s what makes First Lady Obama’s campaign slightly disingenuous to me.

You can’t just bypass the parents – who are, by and large, the primary decision makers in school systems – and reach into the kids directly. Adults drive every move those children make in those school systems. If the adults don’t even believe in the validity of your efforts, do you think they’re going to be enthusiastic about helping you achieve that “healthy school lunch” goal? Do you even think they’re going to care enough to fundraise/campaign for higher taxes if they don’t even think there’s sensibility in your plan? I mean, you rolled into a city with your production budget, made your changes, rolled out.. and took your money with you. That’s not a revolution. That’s a screen play.

It just… it sucks.

Vera June 7, 2011 - 12:03 AM

I’m responding to most of these posts… I did not see Jamie call anyone FAT and he is truly concerned about the diabetes epi… no sorry PANDEMIC that is facing these children… and as far as money goes.. you pay in the front or the back end… I was able to feed myself and 4 foster children with hand made fresh lunches… going to farmers markets (which also take the EBT cards now) and have been living on better foods on a small budget. It can be done with education.. and that is all he is trying to do EDUCATE. When I grew up , we had to take Home Economics , now kids think french fries grow from the ground. This is a crisis in many aspects and anything is better than what has been happening in the last 20 years. Not cool to think of your child dying before you because of the choices you are making with food. Stop making excuses and find a way to help each other… I am creating wellness workshops in my area in the poorest city in the nation. The kids are smart and when powered with info, they will choose an apple with peanut butter before a snickers…

James McSparron October 22, 2012 - 4:04 PM

There’s a simple answer to the healthy eating problem at schools. In fact, right across the board as far as eating away from home goes…………….MAKE A PACKED LUNCH!!!!!!!!!!! Christ almighty you can have real chicken sandwiches, fruit and nuts, pancakes,scones, cheese, milk, orange juice, roast beef, wholemeal bread, hard boiled eggs, tinned sardines. The list goes on. And it’s cheap if you do a weekly shopping. There are Aldi and Lidl stores in the USA? Perfectly good healthy tasty food.

Erika Nicole Kendall October 22, 2012 - 8:11 PM

I feel like people who make comments like this are looking from the outside in, as opposed to the actual struggle parents deal with when they do this.

Let me tell you something, Mister I-Have_All-The-Answers-Come-Here-Let-Me-Coach-You. I make my daughter healthy, ORGANIC lunches that are delicious and fresh. You know what happens? A combination of peer pressure and general “Ooh, they have chicken nuggest in the shape of alphabets!” compels her to take a lunch tray instead of eat her lunch. And, no matter how many times we punish her for doing so, she’s a KID. You can only punish SO much.

If the US is going to offer an “option” when it comes to feeding my child, do it to MY standards or don’t do it at all. Since “not doing it at all” isn’t an option, then they need to DO IT RIGHT. And THAT is why we talk about it without oversimplifying it in the form of “make a packed lunch!!!!EXCLAMATIONPOINT” Jeez.

PB April 9, 2010 - 8:20 AM

i feel like one of those horrible elitists when i see stuff and the first thing i think is…why the hell are these people so stupid?
but then i realize…they’re just ignorant. nobody ever taught them how to eat properly. the leathery radio man who looks like he smells like cigarettes and pork irritated me. even more so because he’s one of many people who get offended when you try to tell them they are killing themselves with their diet.
i learned how they made chicken nuggets a while back, haven’t touched one since. i just couldn’t comprehend how kids could watch those made and still eat them…
i really hope he succeeds in changing people’s habits. but like the commenter above me, if the adults don’t see any reason to change (which they probably won’t because they’re set in their ways) the kids will continue to eat pizza for breakfast

Sheri April 9, 2010 - 8:59 AM

The food is terrible, the amount of money allotted is sad. The nutrition levels are low. Our children are eating this mess and then have to concentrate and learn in school?

SAD

Trixie Trueheart April 9, 2010 - 9:02 AM

I agree with the whole cost aspect. I am reminded of Super Size me when Jeff what’s-his-name went to a school that taught kids who had been kicked out of other schools for behavior problems. They were able to change to a healthier lunch menu at the same price as the stuff they served before. It may even have been cheaper if I remember correctly. I wonder what they did to make that possible. Then agsin, this was before the recession.

Ty April 9, 2010 - 9:16 AM

I have an idea. Why don’t the parents pack a healthy lunch for their children???

Luxurylatte June 7, 2011 - 12:23 AM

Saying parents can just go pack their childrens lunch seems so simple does it not? But it isn’t really…

Most of these parents are under financial constraints themselves. Very few parents nowadays have the time nor the resources to pack their childrens lunch. And even if they did, pack it with what? There aren’t too many “grocery” stores in many areas, especially ones that sell healthy and fresh produce and meats. And plus, keep it real, in many areas that’s just too pricey. Most people don’t have Whole Foods money, they end up at Safeway with a coupon card. And odds are the child may toss it away or trade it with another.

In my day, a few food vendors worked with the school system and in return they received tax credits etc. We should encourage local food vendors to fill those contracts, and in return they get a tax benefit. Pick a space on school property and start a garden so they can watch the process from start to finish and enjoy their veggies from the garden they worked on in that semester. It’s not enough to have someone show up and bully a school into doubling their food budget so you have good tv. Unless you are actually teaching the children nutrition, food sources and the like that they can apply long term your wasting everyones time. IMO…

Hill April 9, 2010 - 9:45 AM

Hi,

I looked at Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution taping and nowhere did I see a segment on how this processed food is made. I was looking for that. As someone who has seen Supersize Me and Fast Food Nation,I’m extremely interested in learning more about what’s being put into my body. To give those kids a choice between the familiar and something new is not sound reasoning. And what is this two bread serving business, is that what nutritionalists teach? Interesting and confusing at the same time. I would pack my kid a lunch, and would they be trading their lunch for a slice of pizza to fit in? Dunno.

hill

Erika April 11, 2010 - 11:23 AM

It’s been so long that now I can’t recall, but it was either the first or second episode (not including the preview) where he did the demonstration for the children about the chicken patties.

If it’s not in the episode linked above, I’ll try to find it in the second one and link it to the site. 🙂

I said this in another comment, but just to be sure: “The two breads thing… that’s shorthand speak (I presume) for two servings. If the pizza slice had enough to cover two servings of bread, then it was OK. Otherwise, it was a problem.”

Tina Fite April 9, 2010 - 9:45 AM

I have logged on and off of this site trying to get my thoughts together in response to what I have seen on JOFR. Coming from a small town in Tennessee where the majority of our businesses are car lots and eateries/restaurants, I truly understand the people of Huntington, WV and their feelings about someone changing the way they eat and fix their food, let alone some British guy (LOL)with cameras, producers and money. Heck, almost anywhere one goes in this country apart from the South, all one has to do is mention the South and someone talks about the good food (not in a nutritious meaning either) that one can receive there. So the South, in and of itself, has a reputation for good food and horrible nutrition. Besides, I think it is a knock off of Shaquille O’Neal show that was on last summer about school kids, nutrition and exercise.

With that being said, I am slightly disappointed all the way around for many of the same reasons mentioned above. I agree the ones who are targeted (the kids) are the wrong ones to target. They do not make the financial decisions in the home nor do they decide what will be cooked in the home. Parents do that. Kids will like what they like. That’s because they are kids and that is their job as kids. It is the job of parents to ensure they are getting their nutrition. However, when parents are more concerned with bills, jobs and other thoughts like one has when coming out of a recession, nutrition is very low on the hierarchy of needs. Heck, many of them many not even desire to know about nutrition because of what they may have heard about the effects on the wallet.

I am also disappointed because those who can make a difference are not really choosing to make a difference. I know that they allowed him into the school to make changes but when the principal cited him for not having 2 breads for lunch, although he had brown rice, it seemed to me that they made an exception for the pizza, stating that it has 2 breads because of the crust. This is unacceptable for we all know that the pizza had only one crust and regardless of what is used to make that crust, it is still one crust – which in my eyes, is one bread. So if they are teaching one crust = two breads or that tomatoes are really potatoes, I’m not too confident in that school system period. Besides, is it just me or is having two breads not only non-nutritious but costly? If so, then wouldn’t Jamie’s idea of one bread be ideal…I’m just sayin’…LOL

I agree wholeheartedly with everyone else about money, producers and Jamie. Great intentions, but the aftermath of his visit is of great concern. How can they fund his suggestions if it is not mathematically feasible on what they get for school food funding? They can’t. The government knows this but what can they do for it all comes back to the children’s taste buds and the parents way of raising their children. Have we all forgotten about the government initiative that was started back in the late 80’s – early 90’s by Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Bush to better kids health by exciting kids to exercise and play more? Other than a 30 second commercial shown every once in a while, you don’t really hear of it. However, there is not one channel or station that will turn down the airing of fast food or restaurant commercials for that is how they make their money. So until the FCC works in conjunction with the FDA on the marketing of foods and nutrition, shows like JOFR will not make a huge difference in communities like Huntington, WV. Sorry, but it is truth.

Therefore, my suggestion for this show would have been to pull it back a little for this should have started in the home, not the school. JOFR would have been better served on a smaller scale, such as a block party or small get together of some people who want to eat and live healthy. That would make a bigger difference than trying to change the eating habits of 3rd graders who want their pizza. Just my opinion…

Erika April 11, 2010 - 11:22 AM

I couldn’t agree with you more. This REALLY should’ve started in the home… then maybe the parents would’ve seen the need to guard their children’s lunches more.

The two breads thing… that’s shorthand speak (I presume) for two servings. If the pizza slice had enough to cover two servings of bread, then it was OK. Otherwise, it was a problem.

Mo April 9, 2010 - 1:12 PM

Just a note, the 2 bread regulation (along with all of the other ones) is federally not district mandated. Also the processed food suppliers have what I would call connections to the FDA in regards to showing what each food item contains. Think of when you buy a lean cuisine and they put the weight watcher points calculation on the box. The food suppliers do the same, on the pizza it says you have 2 breads 1 vegetable 1 dairy. There is on questioning on how much constitutes 1 serving.

I think that Oliver did attempt to show parents what is in the food their children are consuming (remember when he poured the truck full of fat into the crate) and I think for some parents they may make some different decisions. The reality is it starts with 1 decision, 1 change can lead to another.

Hill April 9, 2010 - 3:50 PM

Bad as it may seem to think about it, I think we have to acknowledge the fact some of these kids might not know what real chicken is about. They have only seen it in finger or nuggets. Isn’t that just a sad way to think?

hill

Therese April 9, 2010 - 7:39 PM

Wholesome food is expensive. Period. The reason that we eat the way we do in this country is because low quality food is inexpensive and tastes good. My husband and I combined are in the top 10% of income earners. Still, I have a lot of student loans and feel the pinch when I grocery shop. We buy almost all organic food and together we spend anywhere from $500-700/month on groceries alone. And we are just two people. It’s easy for wealthy or upper middle class people to point their fingers and lecture middle class and poor Americans about their food choices, but the bottom line is that you can’t have a conversation about nutrition without talking about money.

Erika April 9, 2010 - 8:01 PM

I’m sorry, but I don’t think I understand.

$500 (the lowest value you mentioned) divided by 4 (weeks in a month) means you spend $125 on food a week.

That means you spend about $17 a day for two people.

I’m going to ask straight up – what are you eating? I can buy at least 10 items for $17. If you’re buying strictly produce and deli, there’s no possible way you could consume everything you’ve purchased, just the two of you.

Therese April 9, 2010 - 8:50 PM

We have to grocery shop separately.

We have completely different tastes in food, and even if that were not the case we would still have to shop separately because we have two different sets of allergies. He’s allergic to gluten and soy. Soy is my main source of protein because most meat is undigestable for me…and too expensive. A three-pack of organic pork chops costs anywhere from $9-$13. I’m also allergic to dairy and almonds and we are both allergic to a few kinds of fruit–but not the same fruit. That’s why we spend so much. We were both overweight and feeling crummy, so we had food allergy panels done with our doctor and learned that we were allergic to most of the stuff we were eating! We adjusted our diets and are now feeling a lot better. We don’t take any supplements save for Vitamin D and a protein shake that I use as recovery for my workouts. But we don’t have to buy those things weekly, and they are generally inexpensive.

But I figure our grocery bill is still cheaper than a quadruple bypass.

Erika April 10, 2010 - 11:33 AM

Okay, I see.

So, let’s be real, though, because I have a fundamental problem with the notion that “healthy food is expensive.” I think that you may buy a lot of things that you don’t necessarily need (personal opinion, I suppose… but I don’t find pork chops – organic ones, at that – to be a necessity) and you spend that money on it because, really, you have it. I’m not in “the top 10% of income earners” but my family eats well and I spend $500 on groceries for several months cooking 3 meals a day every day. (Not to mention the 3 extra snacks I eat each day..)

That’s not a problem with expensive food, lol, that’s a problem with luxury items. Lots of pure versions of the staples to a healthy diet are painfully inexpensive. (2lb of beans for $2? That lasts a month in my house. 1lb of rice? C’mon.) Either way, the point is that not everyone can afford to eat luxuriously, nor should they. If you ain’t got it, don’t spend it. You can cut back and still eat good looking and tasting food. Jamie, someone who I’d suspect isn’t used to being limited by a budget, should know this.. he just clearly didn’t display that kind of judgment in dealing with the kids.

thewayoftheid April 10, 2010 - 8:56 PM

Ok, so I’m loving this post because it brings up many of the issues I had with JO’s show. I’m a girl who grew up with bad food habits and a history of diabetes in my family. My mom and grandmother struggled with weight all of their lives; my brother did as well for a time, but once he was diagnosed he’s pretty much been on the straight and narrow ever since.

The hopes I had for this show have all but disappeared because while JO’s message is solid, his delivery sucks. Borderline fat-shaming is rarely effective, and we can’t tackle the issue of obesity until we address the economic factor. While it may be a matter of convenience for some, it’s a matter of time and money for others. I’m lucky that I now live in a neighborhood with a number of markets (some affordable, some not) and if I’m REALLY not up to a trip, Peapod, but as a kid growing up? It was the corner store and a monthly trip to Jewel’s, either by bus, generous friend, or gypsy cab. And sometimes, the selection at the major market wasn’t much better than the bodega.

Change won’t happen until we DEMAND better. But we have to WANT better. Remember the Cosby ep where Cousin Erica helped the neighborhood seniors protest the local market for better produce? THAT’s the type of involvement and commitment we need. But I get the idea that a lot of folks don’t know what “better” is. And that’s the crux of the issue.

Erika April 12, 2010 - 2:12 AM

Agreed, agreed, agreed. There are a LOT of different angles to this, but they all originate from the same point: education of the individual. I guess that’s part of what I’ve set out to do with my site.

However, I have to admit… I’m still on the fence about the fat-shaming in the show. I think that at any point if you’re telling someone “Ur doin it rongz,” there’s going to be a bit of shame involved. It’s the nature of the convo. At the same time, because the topic is one that is of such sensitivity in this country… it might feel malicious by default, but that remains to be seen to me. Maybe I’ll feel more apt to sit on one side or the other of the fence after a couple of episodes, but not yet. LOL

Scott Koon April 11, 2010 - 9:25 AM

Two interesting points.

1) don’t forget all of the coloring,preservatives,sodium, and sugars Jamie added to the meat paste to make the nuggets. Aside from the skin and all the fat it contains, those chicken parts, while gross, aren’t all that unhealthy for you.

2) there are two ways to approach the money problem.
A) lower the cost of the supplies.
B) get more money.

I believe that Jamie convinced(shamed) the British government into giving 1 billion dollars to the school lunch budget. Given the buying power of the local, state, and federal government. I’d hope they could get the price of locallly grown produce down. Rather than paying farmers for the food they didn’t grow, buy all the food they grow and use it in the school system.

Erika April 11, 2010 - 9:31 AM

You’re right – I think I was pretty disgusted by what I was seeing while peeking through my hands… ’cause that’s exactly what I was doing. Peeking through my hands at some point.

Do you think that the US could be equally shamed? I mean, in all honesty. LOL

You and I both know it’s possible to control the cost of the products needed… the more I try to respond to your comment, the angrier and more annoyed I become. We both know what’s standing in the way.

Julie Lerman April 11, 2010 - 9:44 AM

I watched the first episode when it was broadcast, with great interest and had many of the same reactions as this editorial. I appreciated the additional details provided here. I live in another Huntington. Huntington, Vermont. A very small community with an innovative food program in our local elementary school that addresses on a small scale what Jamie Oliver is trying to accomplish. . Here’s an article about it: http://www.chefann.com/blog/archives/545. It’s a small community that is a mix of very progressive and very conservative folks.

Erika April 11, 2010 - 10:02 AM

Ann Cooper rocks. ROCKS. She contributed to a documentary that I love, “Killer At Large.” I didn’t know she had a site. This rocks.

Thank you for the link! What a wonderful show of progress. If VT can do it, surely places like California, Florida and the Midwest can do it!

Chad Myers April 11, 2010 - 10:09 AM

“Why don’t the parents pack a healthy lunch for their children???” Bingo. Why is the federal government in the business of feeding children in the first place? I find it really hard to believe that there are really THAT MANY children whose parents cannot afford a few bucks for lunch for their kids.

I doubt the vast majority of those cases have anything to do with money and everything to do with laziness or greediness of the parents (they’d rather have the Escalade and the fancy nails or, in one case I saw personally – gourmet premium dog food for their pedigree dogs as their children were malnourished).

Frankly: We have a lot of stupid, worthless parents who have sold into the “Me first” way of thinking in this society and could literally care less about their kids. It’s the Government’s responsibility to provide a day-long day care for their kids AND feed them, too.

If you try to make school lunches better — even by throwing more money at the problem — you’re just treating the symptom, not treating the problem.

Erika April 11, 2010 - 10:21 AM

I avoided commenting on the “parents need to pack the lunch” message simply because I wanted to do a little digging before I went there, but it is hitting me right on the nose. If I DID pack a healthy lunch for my child, is she going to opt out of what I packed and go for the crap instead? The very fact that there IS an option undermines my parenting… much in the same way that offering the kids in Jamie’s show an option undermined the very purpose of him being there.

We could talk poor parenting all day.. but the fact of the matter is that there are those who “can” and those who “can not.” Those who “have” and “have not.” It will always be that way. The children that are HERE and are relegated to the position of being “have nots” need to be covered somehow. They are children. I’m not a proponent of coddling adults, but I do believe we need to collectively tend to our children to make sure they grow up as “better than” their circumstances, not belittled by them.

It may be treating the symptom and not the problem, but that symptom is hurting our children. In fact, our supposed solution is not only hurting our kids MORE, but it’s aimed in the wrong direction. I’d be more supporting of the “solving UP the problem tree” strategy if the solutions were actually working. We just need better efforts.

Carol June 7, 2011 - 8:59 AM

Speaking as a nurse…sometimes you have to treat the symptoms first in order to stabilize the situation WHILE you get at the problem. But you do have to get at the problem!

renee February 13, 2011 - 3:25 AM

If I remember right, the government started feeding children in school to prevent drop outs. So at some point in time Americans were so poor that the promise of a fed child was enough to keep children in school, and their parents worry free. Personally speaking I hid my being homeless for the last two years of high school, no one ever figured out either. School breakfast and lunch was all I had to eat, my parents ate dinner at the shelter. Once a day thats it. You never know who is underfed due to neglect or other circumstances. I understand that in a perfect world parents should provide their children healthy lunch. At the same time there are many parents who don’t know what healthy is. Not everyone has parents who care enough or are willing to take time and learn, but why should the child suffer? This also has me thinking about the free lunch to paid lunch ratios. Some are eligible for free lunch, but most of the kids paid for their school lunches. So there is some fraction of money being made to cover the cost of lunches. Still, I just don’t believe that because many choose to let their kids buy school lunches those without options should continue to suffer.

James McSparron October 22, 2012 - 4:19 PM

I agree about the packed lunches. But why do you spoil your comment by thrashing parents as being lazy and stupid? You’ve taken everything good out of the comment.
I live in Ireland by the way and we are one country hit worst by the recession. Sending kids to school with a packed lunch is the way to go. YOU control what they eat. NOT local government.

Chad Myers April 11, 2010 - 10:11 AM

Note: When I said “It’s the government’s responsibility…” I was being sarcastic. This is what the bad parents think because that’s what they’re being told. More and more reliance on the government is making for a society where parents don’t care about their kids and push the responsibility onto the government.

mia January 3, 2013 - 11:20 AM

Whatever the case is with parents, it’s the children who become the victims. If these children don’t have access to a packed lunch or food at home, then meals at school are all they’re going to get. I say that’s reason enough for the government to step in.

TomMe April 11, 2010 - 4:04 PM

Make sure you send books with your kids to school so they don’t have to use the library. Due to budget constraints, we are filling the school library with coloring books for all the poor kids whose parents can’t afford it.

It’s the lazy parent’s fault anyways for not sending GOOD books. They’re wasting all their money on hospital bills and trying to keep a roof over the kid’s heads.

Reality is, a lot of people cannot afford “a few bucks a day” to send kids a healthy lunch.

Erika, you are exactly right. I am a parent that always sends extremely healthy lunches, and my child is so enticed by the junk in the cafeteria that she can’t get at home, she ends up getting it on occasion. Then a month later I get a bill from the school for the costs. This is a discipline problem with my child, but you get the idea. School needs to educate and provide the proper choices, whether it’s books, food, etc…

JoAnna April 12, 2010 - 4:21 AM

I worked in a public school for 14 years. I only ate the school lunch if I forgot to prepare lunch from dinner’s leftovers, and NEVER after my first 6 months!!

I organized a monthly potluck theme lunch with my students and asked my parents to contribute based on the menus I sent home. Major backlash from the parents regarding the ingredients: chickpeas, lettuces besides iceberg, seasonal vegetables, and more. Some of my parents had never cooked in their lives. I had one parent who had never tasted a fresh blueberry. I had 3 children who had never eaten brocolli outside of cream of brocolli soup. I liked introducing new foods to the children: eggplant, swiss chard, brussel sprouts, raw bel peppers, savoury yogurt dips, beans and rice, couscous, homemade salad dressings, etc. Some of my parents introduced me to new tastes (Among them: homemade ginger beer and curried pumpkin stew!). But some of my parents felt that my choices were too “ethnic”, and had their children bring their own lunches. I welcomed any parent who wanted to come and eat with us.

Until the parents consider proper nutrition a priority, it is very difficult to ask the children to change their familily’s eating choices. Sending home menus helped. Having tastings helps. But we are a nation of convenience. When people think of popular American cuisine, the first things that pop up are chesseburgers, followed by fried chicken, hotdogs, pizza and bbq. It’s a slowly changing mindset, but it IS changing. The popularity of Jamie Oliver’s show and other shows like it prove that the call for good nutrition and fresh food is sinking into our culture.

Dr.Ayo Kedar April 15, 2010 - 9:22 PM

ok let me add something to the mix EDUCATION! How about most people dont even realize they are eating unhealthy? They don’t realize “healthy logos” are bought and not backed by evidence. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! Why does water cost more than a liter of soda? The system is not designed to keep us healthy. Thats why eating good cost more than eating junk. Most people are living on “the poor man’s diet” — full of high fructose corn syrup, sugar and highly processed foods. If you eat lots of FRESH fruits and vegetables you’ll be at the store every week! Which most Americans can’t afford. Sadly people don’t realize you can pay for it now with good food, or pay for it later with doctor’s bills. The choice really is up to us!

British Bells July 21, 2010 - 11:40 PM

Jamie is of course right. it’s the harsh reality that Americans eat terribly on the whole. I was shocked at the amount of very overweight people here, and a once fat girl from London (me) was suddenly a skinny lass over here. Sad but true. One of the reasons why people are so large here is because the takeaway portions are too big. Too much food for one person. It encourages greed, and thus we eat more than we have to. Also, there are too many takeaway shops…too many options and thus nobody wants to cook. Schools should teach young people Home Economics like we have in the UK and in Europe on the whole. Kids are taught how to make a meal (how to help themselves). Another thing that gets my back up is…there are very few pavements for people to walk on..in Georgia no one walks…if I see another person walking with thier groceries it is because they are from another country (and are used to walking to the local stores). Americans need to exercise more, and I am not talking about working on abs and bottom crunches…but pure honest to goodness walking. It is the culture to blame. We British are not pefect we smoke and drink more than is fun or necessary, but on the whole…we are slimmer.

Curlstar August 25, 2010 - 11:39 AM

I showed that clip to my 7 year old son. He was grossed out and doesn’t want to eat chicken nuggets anymore. Do you blame him? Don’t get me wrong, my oldest is greedy at times and he’ll eat like he’s trying to fill his leg at times. My son goes to a public chartered school and they use a company that uses healthier foods and uses “organic” products. (I’m not sure if it’s really organic) My suggestion – How about these money-strained school systems begin their own gardens? It’s a good way to teach kids about their food, how it should look taste and smell, and it can be cheaper since they are growing their own veggies. Just a thought. (Then again, a garden would possibly do away with the government funding they receive)

Carol June 7, 2011 - 9:08 AM

That’s what I was thinking! Have a school veggie garden! Teach the kids how to tend it and let them take the proceeds home to there families or sell them to the community. They would learn so many things in the garden!

Lyn December 20, 2010 - 1:50 PM

The fact that Jamie is ENGLISH doesnt help. Hes bombing into middle america with his accent telling them they are fat and need to change. I watched a few episodes and saw the push back he got from the community at large. I have travelled to England and they have a different relationship to food than we do. They dont even have large sized fridges like we do. They have small bar fridges which forces them to shop every few days. When I went to fast food chains there, they had vegetarian options in EVERY SINGLE ONE! I loved the idea of what Jamie was doing and his commitment to it. But like I mentioned in the post about obesity programs for black girls, the parents arent going to want to change and they buy all the groceries.

Rebecca December 27, 2010 - 3:41 PM

Here is a question. I am all late to the game–BUT, whatever happened to parents making their kid’s lunch before school. When did it become that children HAVE to be fed by the school? I know there are many kids who are coming from disadvantaged families and cannot afford it, but that’s not MOST kids. Most kids parents can afford to put a PBJ on whole wheat in a bag–even with natural peanut butter and jelly. To me if the school systems cannot afford to do it right then they should just stop doing it.

Bex March 10, 2011 - 9:45 PM

So…why can’t schools grow some of the food they would serve to the kids? I could totally see bringing back some small forms of home ec and shop – this would be a great way for kids to get creative in small spaces AND eat more healthfully.

Adam May 2, 2011 - 11:10 AM

Jamie has been very passionate about spreading the word of good healthy food so we have to give him credit for that.

Alisha June 7, 2011 - 12:02 AM

I think the idea of JOFR is great but it is executed poorly. He is currently in Los Angeles with his show fighting LAUSD on their food guidelines when he and the producers didn’t know they LAUSD is following the Nutritional letters of the law. My father is the cafeteria manager of Bell High School he serves the most school hot lunches in the entire country and whenever he see JOFR on tv he gets super pissed. The show attempts to show that LAUSD pulled their permits, and told them to get out of the schools, but what it fails to show is all the meetings that were scheduled around Jamie Oliver’s time to show him everything that they serve that he never came to. They also never showed the producers belittling other managers about sugar in the chocolate milk and strawberry milk which is the same as our fat free but at the same time trying to push Orange Juice that had more sugar in it. All of this was going on while JO was running to the media claiming LAUSD wasn’t trying to work with him, and that they were trying to hide something. The sad thing is this makes me feel like he’s not trying to make a difference, it feels like he’s just trying to start drama for ratings.

raisin_in_arlington September 7, 2011 - 5:06 PM

Erika, I’m really surprised you didn’t call out all the parent bashing, i.e. Chad Meyers who referred so disparagingly to folks as “a lot of stupid, worthless parents” and “bad parents.” (because I’m sure he’s met them all and made an objective and unbiased assessment of their particular circumstances and skills). Worthless? Really? Ouch.

Let’s be completely honest about this, the anti-government rhetoric Meyers (and neo-Cons and the Tea Party) espouses is the reason why your children’s hamburgers contains “meat” filler cleaned with ammonia. It’s the almighty gospel of less government, more freedom, and prosperity, which has conveniently equated to lax regulation on big Food, big Pharma and big Oil whose executive lap up bonus more than your annual salary. This is why ketchup and pickles were almost vegetables during Reagan-era budget cuts and why it took 70 years to see a major overhaul with food policy via the Food Safety Modernization Act that includes whistleblower protections (Hallelujah!). Are you sick for no fault of your own? Gotta degenerative condition that requires prescription meds? While diet and exercise are key to preventing a number of illnesses, some disease are genetic dispositions. Does that mean you shouldn’t rely on the FDA inspect a pharm processing facility to ensure mold isn’t growing on the machinery? That you aren’t being duped into an off label use of a product?

Under Meyers’ ideology, we can blame all our problems on government, ‘social engineering’ of welfare and the lazies who won’t take responsibility. So of course, under this reasoning, we should gut programs! Ah, that’s just government making us dependents! Funny though how corporations continue their reckless and irresponsible lobbying to enjoy more and more benefits and entitlements. Let’s be honest, corporations have their hands out all the time, lest we forget the bailouts that started before Bush left office. We want government big enough to save a CEO’s behind but small enough it can’t advocate for a decent meal for children. In my mother’s words, the devil is a liar. Frankly, I’m embarrassed when we have the chutzpah to call ourselves a nation of Christians. We are a hot mess and we know it. (e.g. When was the last time you called YOUR representative).

This “big government” BS is so trite, but I’m compelled to call it out. We get off on saluting the flag, our firefighters and police (and our defense contractors), and singing God bless America at the bottom of the 7th, but heaven forbid we appropriately pay a cafeteria worker or a teacher or federal food policy analyst because that would mean “throwing money” at the problem or “bloated pensions.” We let companies siphon billions off the government at 0% to loan back to us at 3%-5%, so yes, we need to get our collective act together, pay our damn taxes, have decent wages for honest work (yeap, better collect that overtime pay), and get schools to prepare a healthy meal for our future labor force. If we can’t get lunch right, America is not and will never again be number 1.

My July 27, 2012 - 6:22 PM

Great article Erika! Jamie’s ‘let me teach you idiots’ method sometimes leaves a whole lot to be desired and is indeed a turnoff. I get that he’s super excited and die hard about nutrituion but who wants to be berated about their favorite snack or meal? After watching the link above, I feel he missed the kids because he (along with fastfood chains) didn’t give them something special, that being a simple choice between a gunk nugget and a true chicken nugget. If I were a hungry 6-7yr old smelling the delicious aroma of my favorite meal, I would eat the gunk nugget too and ask for seconds. Too bad Jamie didn’t show them how the true nugget is prepared and cooked because it would have been a much less tasking project and the kids would’ve ate it first and been able to compare the taste since they already knew what a gunk nugget taste like.

Linette October 4, 2012 - 4:23 PM

I really liked the show. Im assuming its still on (overseas, so I cant watch). I loved the concept of the show but as you said, if the community isnt ready and did not ask for him to be there, then there is very little that you can do. It makes me sad that the US is at this point of “I want so therefore I get” and that marketing and ignorance is being marsquarded as freedom and choice. I understand where he’s coming from more than the perspective of the school. Logically crap cost nothing, FOOD cost cash. But that doesn’t justify feeding our children crap. There needs to be more advocacy on the part of the schools to say that these budgets are ridiculous and dangerous for kids.

Acmerasta February 16, 2013 - 9:36 PM

Where I come from we maximize our chicken because it’s our main source of animal protein and it is not always cheap. That means we eat everything but the feathers, claws and sometimes the head. I saw the episode Jamie did with the chicken patties/nuggets and I was wondering what was his problem. So long as it had no extraneous chemical additives, it’s still chicken… ground up bones and all.

sarah October 8, 2014 - 12:38 AM

Everything aside…what’s wrong with eating the rest of the chicken? http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/kaleh-pacheh

Erika Nicole Kendall October 9, 2014 - 10:04 PM

There’s a difference between eating stews made of offal and eating ground up bones and ligaments. For starters, if you’re ordering/cooking an offal soup, you know you’re getting offal. Taking a product that once used to be marketed as “chicken breast” and slowly adding ligaments and cartilage and other bits and oats as filler is another thing entirely.

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