On March 23, I told you how Merryl Streep was 10 years old when she learned mashed potatoes didn’t come from a box. Jamie Oliver discovered that folks in Huntington, W. Virginia haven’t made the connection yet.
The British chef wants to help Americans get thinner simply by avoiding processed foods, and eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Yaay Jamie! In his reality TV show on ABC, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution“, he cooks healthier school lunches. He begins in Huntington, W. Virginia recently named by the Center for Disease Control as the “unhealthiest city, in the unhealthiest state of America, in the most overweight nation of the world.”
In the first episode the lunch ladies at the elementary school served pizza and chocolate milk for breakfast, and chicken nuggets for lunch, and were unconcerned about the long list of chemicals and additives in the food, or the missing fresh or “green” food on the children’s plates.
Invited to a truck driver’s house, Jamie points out that all the food eaten in the home was white, either fried, or microwaved, and with no sign of anything fresh, or green. The mother weeps. She didn’t know. (The freezer was packed with frozen pizzas).
Jamie Oliver’s vegetable lesson. Photograph: Holly Farrell/ABC via Getty Images
When Jamie dressed as a pea asked a class of 6 and 7 year olds to identify a basket of vegetables, they didn’t know any of them i.e. pea, carrot, beet, cauliflower, eggplant, potato, tomato [how can you not know a tomato?]. (Although they didn’t recognize a potato, they all knew what a French Fry was!)
This week’s episode was at Huntington High School. He cooked them stir-fry noodles (with seven vegetables, and fresh chicken), served with a fruit cup.
“This meal does not contain a big enough portion of vegetables, and fails to meet the guidelines, so it cannot be served,” the School’s Director of Food Services told him just before lunch. “The meal component in a secondary school has to have a cup and a quarter of fruit and vegetables, and your stir-fry doesn’t contain a big enough portion of vegetables,” she said, ignoring his claim that he’d carefully weighed the vegetables to meet the “guidelines”.
It didn’t make sense to Jamie Oliver – or to me – that a burger with fries, and a side salad falls within the “guidelines” (especially as no one ate the salad).
He was allowed to serve the pasta, as long as he added fries to the plates, because, according to the “guidelines” “frozen reconstituted chemically laced deep fried potatoes” are a vegetable.
He was shocked, and frustrated. “I wonder whether the parents of America have any idea how the so-called ‘guidelines‘ are killing their kids?” he said.
“No, Jamie.” I had no idea.
I had no idea American kids are eating pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or that I would see a class of six-year-old American kids who couldn’t identify a tomato.
I wonder whether Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move“ organization will be able to do something about it.
Let’s Move will give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help our kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country.