2005/10/03

Jamie Oliver: School Lunch

By JULIETTE ROSSANT

Jamie Oliver, by APYou may have seen him among other celebrities on NBC's Today Show as he hammered homes for Habitat for Humanity's Hurricane Katrina relief effort, or cooking for kids, also on The Today Show. By Friday last week, however, Jamie Oliver had gone where few chefs had gone before: he had made ABC News "Person of the Week."

And for what, you ask?

For beefing up bad British school lunches.

Feed Me Better banner


Jamie Oliver sates teenage demand It's a personal campaign called "Feed Me Better" that Jamie, a proud father of two girls, has taken on. With a TV camera in tow to create a four-part series called Jamie's School Dinners which ran on the UK's TV Channel 4, he started with one school and eventually delivered healthy food to over 50 schools in London at the same price the government was currently paying -- 37 pence per meal (65 American cents).

Jamie also created a five-point manifesto for his program:
  1. Feed Me Better logo The Meal's the Deal
  2. Ban the Junk!
  3. Big Love to Dinner Ladies
  4. Teach Kids about Food
  5. Double the Money
There is even a Feed Me Better self-starter pack, to help spread not just the word but the deed.

Within one month, a plan to collect 10,000 signatures had spawned 271,677 signatures, delievered to No. 10 Downing Street (that's British shorthand for the prime minister's residence -- their "White House") and resulting in a government increase of $500 million for the national school lunch budget. Tough guidelines are also in the works, reports the BBC, following the "scandal" Jamie has created over what British Education Secretary Ruth Kelly recently conceded is "junk food."

Chicken Run "You say you want a revolution?" John Lennon once asked ("Revolution," Hey Jude, 1970). Well, you have to get together and actually make a plan to do something. You know, you gotta make like a chicken -- that is, the chickens in Chicken Run (another great English invention), so that the institutional Tweedy's Farm (big government) will acknowledge you: "Them chicken's organized!"

Talk about Reality TV!

Now, Jamie is ready to take on the U.S. market, land of pre-packaged, processed, and otherwise preserved foods, telling ABC:
Jamie Oliver serves finest school lunches ever If you look at an ingredient -- a product like a sausage or a burger -- and you look at the ingredients, you should have four or five, but it's got 49 and you're like, 'Wow!' I realized that there were more standards in place for dog food than there were for our own kids, and that just sums it all up.
None too soon either, because efforts led by chefs in this country are either too indirect (e.g., Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard) or too small (Emeril Lagasse's Children's Storefront School in Harlem).

Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard logo



After all, how will an Edible Schoolyard ever make headway on the immediate, everyday school lunch? And how will change at one Harlem school change all schools in America? But that's what Jamie Oliver is doing -- affecting the entire UK population, which is (conservatively) about 15% of ours. Since we're talking about numbers, does that mean that it would take well under 10 equally committed American chefs to achieve the same here?

Emeril Lagasse's Children's Storefront School logo


And count in one chef already -- Jamie Oliver!

News stories:
BBC
ABC World News Tonight
ABC Good Morning America
New York Daily News

Previous articles:
Today's Kitchen Cookbook
Back to School: Mollie Katzen's Salad People
Alice Waters: Ms. Smith Goes to Washington
July 4: East Meets West
Wall Street Journal: Beef over Chef Sponsorship?
Amazon UK's Steamy Xmas Chefs

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