Revolution? Or Passing Trend?


Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution wrapped up last night.  I have to admit that I had high hopes, but in the end I was underwhelmed.

I was hoping that the show would make the conversation about what we eat and how we feed our children mainstream, but there is a difference between mainstream and trendy.

I fear the push for better quality food is just a passing fancy.  It was good for ratings, I’m sure.  But in the end, reality TV and Ryan Seacrest Productions may have won out over real change.

My husband summed it up well last night when he said, “I feel like we just watched the same show 6 times.”

There was always a conflict, a drama, some tears and sentimentality, and then in the end a sweeping victory.  Did we ever doubt that Jamie would save the day?

And, I know it’s show business, but did he have to make the people of WV out to be so ignorant?  I found it interesting that he went to the directors of the hospital for funding and they expressed concern about him making a mockery of Huntington, that’s exactly what happened in the end.  As much as Jamie tried to express his concern and respect for the people of WV, the advertising department had a heyday with the “fattest city in America” mantra.  I guess that’s what happens when the producer of American Idol and Keeping Up with the Kardashians is involved.

School lunches are horrid, there is no doubt about it.  I signed the petition.  I’m all for making our school lunches healthier.  Heck, I’d just be happy if they got rid of the flavored milks and the cookies and chips and the “ice cream,” which is anything BUT cream.

I don’t buy school lunches; I pack lunch for my kids.  But not everyone has that privilege.  Some people depend on school lunches for financial reasons.  That meal may be the only square meal some kids get in a day.  And for the rest of us, trying to do our best to pack healthy lunchboxes, only to have our efforts sabotaged by bags of Doritos and Rice Krispie Treats and cartons of chocolate milk is quite demoralizing.  So if Jamie Oliver’s publicity stunt can help achieve a change for the better, then I’ll take it.  But I wish the show had focused a little bit more on facts and a little less on drama.  Then again, I suppose drama is what sells.

Speaking of packing lunches, there was another huge red flag raised in the final episode.  When they showed the kids bringing in bagged lunches full of Lunchables and other assorted packaged junk food, did you hear what Jamie said about the bagged lunches meeting state regulations?


The government has no business telling me what I feed my kids [put in their lunchboxes].

The government says that low-fat diary is healthy.  The government says that all saturated fats are bad.  The government says that “no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-r-BST treated cows.”

No, thank you, the government can keep their misguided information and let me raise my family as I see fit.

And this is my biggest fear with this movement.  While I want people to be aware of what they are eating and how it affects their quality of life, and as much as I want government run organizations, such as our schools, to be on board, I do not want the government dictating how we feed our families.  And that’s the direction I’m afraid this is heading.

So in a nutshell, I’m glad this is a topic of conversation.  I hope it’s not (but fear it is) a passing fad.  I hope this awareness will lead to better food in schools (and less junk).  And most of all, I hope that it’s not a foothold for the government to get more control over our lives and our food choices.

What say you?

For another take on the show, my friend Cecily wrote about the topic tonight too.

UPDATE: I want to clarify about my government rant. I meant that the government should not tell me what to pack in my kids’ lunchboxes. I understand that the government must regulate what is served in government schools, and it is my hope that we can improve upon the regulations that are already in place.

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33 thoughts on “Revolution? Or Passing Trend?

  1. I saw an ad for this show with Jamie, but didn’t watch it. As a native WV, I’m sorry Huntington let him in. Show-biz is show-biz, and it’s ALL about $$$ and what will keep people glued to the screen. People don’t watch TV to get healthy (duh); they watch TV to be entertained. Nothing’s more entertaining than watching others be humiliated.

    I’m afraid if we want to see a real revolution/movement for Real Good Food, it won’t come from Hollywood. It’ll come from all of us demanding that food and refusing to buy the trash being sold.

    And, just like I don’t want the gov’t dictating what I put in my kids’ tummies, I don’t want them dictating what it put in their brains. Public schools are all about gov’t control, in my opinion (and only my opinion). If people are willing for the gov’t to feed their kids the trash that’s being taught in the classroom these days, I don’t know why they’d mind a little trash on the lunch tray. A shame, but there’s hardly much difference.

  2. I am an American living in Australia (last 11 years and 2 kids born here). We saw jamie’s show of his “school dinners” program from the UK but not the American version. My comment is just to share what the food policy is here in public schools to show you a healthy balance between what is going on in America now and your fears of government telling you to do low fat milk, etc.

    We have a no junk policy in public schools here that is for the most part adhered to. From preschool onwards kids are taught to think of food in a 3 colour system following traffic lights: red food are not for school – they are party foods, junk, etc. so no one brings cake or cheetos to school. amber/yellow foods are sometimes foods – they get eaten after our healthiest foods and include healthy snacks, home baked goods etc, green light foods are healthy and always get eaten first – sandwiches, fruit, veg, pasta, etc. Water is the only drink you are supposed to bring and everyone has a water bottle that gets refilled through the day.

    We do have a “tuck shop” where kids can buy foods, but that is mostly healthy too (sushi, sandwches, pasta etc) but does include cookies muffins, meat pies, pizza, ice lollies (popsicles) etc. Most people use it sparingly for emergencies or treats. My kids are allowed to buy a treat (usually a calippo ice block) on Fridays for their last food break of the day

    (we get 3 breaks per day – 1 for fruit (everyone stops to have fresh fruit around 10am. if you forget your fruit you cannot have a snack at all), then 1st lunch (supposed to be healthiest foods) and then a last break when my kids usually have snack foods, but still relatively healthy).

    sometimes i get comments from a teacher about my selections but i clarify for them (ie – the “brownies” i send are the kind i make with spinach, blueberries and wheatgerm and minimal sugar for my fussy kid so that is her healthy food and that is all there is to it etc). teachers let some choices slide but i think they balance it with what else the kid has eaten and if it is a frequent or infrequent infraction. We still have treats for birthdays at school (usually cupcakes or individual ice blocks) though and i find the school actually allows more junk through celebrations than i would even give normally which i strange given the focus on healthy eating (baking in the classroom is common here). they also have recess twice a day after the 2 main food breaks which is an impoortant part of the healthy message to be active.

    1. That is all very interesting. I find it curious how much more involved the schools over there are in what the kids eat. It really only helps the school. So much behavior is tied to diet, that when kids eat better, they will be better equipped to pay attention and stay on task.

  3. Sadly, EVERYTHING in America is headed in the direction you fear–more government intervention and control. It’s sad and scary.

    Just curious about Mary Kathryn’s comment above–does she think that what’s being poured into kids’ brains in public school is “trash” from experience? Or is that just uninformed opinion?

  4. I must admit that, I too, was sadly underwhelmed after the show ended last night! I was hoping for more of a ‘revolution’ that would really impact what we are doing with School Lunches. We saw a ‘great idea’ with a lot of Hollywood Drama and ‘fluff’ but when it comes down to it, we don’t know how to make those changes here in the rest of the country. When the show was just about over yesterday, I said to my husband, but how does this change the country? It obviously wasn’t successful because as we flash-forwarded several months to April 2010, we obviously haven’t seen this revolution take hold anywhere. It was sad.

    I don’t have children in the school system presently. I was a former teacher who saw the horrid pizza for breakfast and watched one little boy and his family, who relied on the free lunch/breakfast program – and his foods were just horrible. On days there were fruits and veggies, he wouldn’t eat a bite. At the same time, this being his only good meal(s), I had worked hard to make him try things, but I wasn’t successful because it was something lost at home. (This little boy had MR & Autism and so I was his lunch ‘aide’ for a while and wanted so hard to just pack him a lunch, but I wasn’t going to risk my job.)

    Anyway, I wish that lunches would change. I wish our whole food processing here in this country would change. My family was discussing Food, Inc. and how it really is starting to impact their food selections because of what is going on with food in our country. (Another soapbox, I’ll step down, I guess!)

    I just appreciated you sharing that you were disappointed as well.

    1. As you know, I wish our food processing would change too, but I’m not very optimistic. There is too much money tied up in it. They will keep trying to make their processed foods sound healthier, using the latest “nutrient du jour,” but in reality, the only way to improve the situation is to support fresh food, and there is simply no money to be made there.

      The book What To Eat by marion nestle explains the food system thoroughly. It’s quite unsettling.

  5. Hi I live in the UK and Jamie Oliver did a show all about making school lunches more healthy. I do agree with what your saying about all the drama as they showed that programme over here aswell. But I do have to say when he did the school lunch programme over here my kids school lunches have changed considerably for the better. There is no longer the chips and rubbish that they had been eating but more healthy options for them to choose from and my kids are now happy to choose from the dinner menu instead of complaining that all they get a choice of is chips and fizzy drinks!

    1. You know, THAT is why I thought there was hope for this show – because it does sound like he had some success in the UK. But the UK is not the US, and I don’t think that much will come out of this, but I hope I’m wrong.

  6. I, too, think it’s a passing fancy. People think these are great ideas, but they won’t, in everyday reality, change the way they eat. The people in my Pilates class think we are freaks because we grow a huge (organic) garden and freeze/can vegetables. Why go to all that work, they say, when you can get perfectly good stuff at the farmer’s market?

    A few years ago, we lived in an Amish/Mennonite community, and people used to come from miles away to buy their “fresh” veggies. What they didn’t know was that the Amish die at young ages, and their children get cancer at alarming rates, because of all the chemicals they use to make their veggies and gardens so pretty. They are the biggest users of Miracle Grow and weed killers.

    If you grow it yourself, you have absolute control of what’s in it. It’s worth the work.

  7. I read the article that Cecily linked too and I the main thing I pulled from it was how tied in the corporations are and how it is tied to profit, from how the government decides what is “healthy” to how Jamie Oliver didn’t say that certain things are bad because of who his sponsors are. My favorite quote was, “…there’s no one helping to educate them and help modify their behaviors and habits because there is much more profit in the huge diet industryand obesity-related diseases than in prevention.” That is the key right there. And until that is different then I don’t seen any real change ever happening.

    I think the most important thing to come out of the show was that people are talking about it. They only way real change will occur is for people to be educated about how food in this country is produced. But then finances and time constraints will still have to be dealt with.

    That was the one thing I don’t think Cecily mentioned, was time. I’m a mother that works full time out of the home. I just don’t always have the time to plan healthy meals, spend a long time at the grocery store, and then actually cook when I get home. I need things that are convenient so that I can actually feed my kids by a reasonable time when they get home at night. I make the changes that I can and try to educate myself the best way I can and then do the best I can, which may not always be the “best” but it is the best I can do. We all have limitations we have to work with, whether it be knowledge, time or finances.

    1. Jennifer, good comment. I like the way you wrote it. And the time factor is a good point. Love Karen’s comment, too about the garden. We’ve had a garden for 10 years!

      I wish we wouldn’t vilify any one group; we all have a hand in it. Does anyone remember this quote, “I have seen the enemy and it is us.” The corporations are trying to make a profit, keep the employees. The “govt” is trying to protect those of us who are least able to make wise choices; the entire process is being carried out by people like you and me, doing their jobs. And let’s face it, there are many, many people, including me and all my neighbors, who are making bad nutritional choices, when we can actually make better choices. I’m not poor, I’m not uneducated, I don’t have 4 kids, and I don’t live in an area that doesn’t even have a grocery store. (Until this past year, north Philly did not have a grocery store.)

  8. We already have legislation about school lunches. If it’s tweaked for the better, than I’m for it. (Ketchup was approved as a vegetable under a Republican administration, btw.) It may not be perfect and definitely won’t go the way I PRESONALLY would want, but better is better.

    1. I definitely agree with that. I’m hoping for the best! (And a lot of stuff was has been approved thru both administrations that should not have been. I’m not pointing fingers at either side.)

  9. Thanks so much for including the remark about the government control of what parents send for lunch. When Jamie made the comment I was livid. The government is over-regulating parental rights, and although I know his intentions were that children get healthier lunches, it would go so much further. I homeschool, so we don’t have to worry about school lunches right now, but I do not wish for the government to further regulate me as a parent.

      1. You know what though? I really don’t think that’s what he meant. The way I took it was that if all these so-called “regulations” are going on with what we serve in the schools (their stupid rules they had about how many veggies and how many fruits and such…) and then kids can bring in a sack lunch with lunchables – it makes NO sense. I totally agreed with him. I think he was just making a point not saying we would actually regulate what we as parents send as a lunch for our kids. I thought it was a well-made point because most parents DO send absolute junk in their kids lunch boxes – and WHY did the lunches go down – because these kids are not liking all the homemade things and more healthful choices. And without the support from home, none of these changes will ever work. I took that comment totally a different way and thought he made a great point.

        1. Tammy, thanks for that perspective. I didn’t think of it that way, and I certainly hope that’s what he meant.

  10. Like it or not, if our kids go to public school, the government has to be involved in the school lunch program. You can’t have both — free public school and no governmental involvement.

    If you go to other parts of the world, school lunches, regulated by the government are very different. For example:

    “In 2003, about 70 percent of Italian schools used organic ingredients. In 2005, 647 schools, including those in Rome, served entirely organic meals. Other cities, like Ascoli and Borgo San Lorenzo, use only local ingredients.

    “Like France, Italy views lunch as an integral part of a student’s education. School meals are supposed to teach children about local traditions and instill a taste for the regional food. To that end, Italian law allows schools to consider more than just price when making contracts with meal providers. Schools can take into account location, culture and how foods fit into the curriculum.

    All this makes for lunches that are about as different as it gets from American school meals. On a recent Friday, students in the northern city of Piacenza ate zucchini risotto and mozzarella, tomato and basil salad. Tomorrow they’re getting pesto lasagna, a selection of cheeses and a platter of garden vegetables.”

    I went to Tuscany a few years ago and was blown away at how they eat and how their kids eat at school. The people we stayed with did not own a microwave, they made all their pasta sauce, pasta and pizza from scratch every day, canned all their own tomatoes each year, and got their wine and olive oil from a local neighborhood farm (they take jugs over to the olive farm and fill them up with freshly pressed olive oil). They would not dream of using packaged, boxed foods. We even went truffle hunting with a local truffle hunter.

    Their children were going to Italian schools and they told us that the children get a 4-course lunch. At the first PTA meeting they attended in Tuscany, the Italian parents spent 2 hours discussing the food the children would eat, “Which olive oil do you use? Which farm does it come from?”

    I hear so many people complaining about how they don’t want “more government”. Our government is for the people and by the people. If we show up and we make our voice heard, then things can change. If we just sit back and say we don’t want “more government” how can things change?

    Jamie Oliver may not be 100% right (I agree — I don’t like the low fat focus) but at least he is a major step in the right direction. And Jo-Lynne, I think if the show wasn’t produced the way it was, maybe it wouldn’t have as many viewers. At least he is getting the word out and bringing more attention to this very important “real food” movement.

    And as far as the low-fat agenda and all the crappy fake foods on the market, and the USDA’s official stance on what we should eat: think about it. They are just pushing, as Sally Fallon Morell calls them, “foods of commerce”. Subsidies for corn and soy — we have a surplus, so they put them at the widest part of the food pyramid. In other words, “Eat more grain because it’s better for our bottom line.”

    If we want real change, we have to change ourselves. We have to stop buying their processed junk and stop allowing our children to eat it. We have to toss out our microwaves and our plastic trays full of frozen meals and start cooking from scratch again — just like our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did. If Jamie Oliver can inspire more people to do that more often, he’s done something very wonderful and important.

    1. “Like it or not, if our kids go to public school, the government has to be involved in the school lunch program. You can’t have both — free public school and no governmental involvement.” — Absolutely. I get that. And I updated and clarified my post. I was talking about them regulating what parents pack in their kids’ lunchboxes.

      “I hear so many people complaining about how they don’t want “more government”. Our government is for the people and by the people. If we show up and we make our voice heard, then things can change. If we just sit back and say we don’t want “more government” how can things change?” — Yes, you are right. I am excited about a dinner I’m going to this week where I will meet people in charge of our local health and wellness foundation as well as some of the people in charge of the lunches in our local schools. I am determined to get involved and make something happen.

      Point taken about the way the show was produced and getting viewers and inspiring us to make changes. Thanks for helping me see the glass half full! 🙂

  11. I think we’re headed into a time where the government will be dictating everything we do. It’s sad and unfortunate. People listen to “leaders” who present empty promises. They get fooled into thinking that the government has all the answers and our best intentions at heart. And slowly, we lose more control over the day to day decisions, even the personal ones. Ugh. So frustrating.

  12. I haven’t watched the final episode yet (thanks for the reminder!), but I definitely have some of the same reservations as you. I do let my kids buy their lunch once a week, as a treat, when we have the money. It is as much to give me a break as anything, but I know they don’t eat all the food and I hate wasting $2.50 too, so they don’t always get to indulge in school food.

    I definitely would not want the government to tell me what I can pack in my kids’ lunches. If they can’t get it right for the lunch served at school, they certainly wouldn’t get it right at home, in my opinion. One thing I was hoping for from the show was a more extensive exploration of what the regulations for school lunches are and how they are determined and what can be done to change them. But I guess that would be boring.

  13. Who else wants to move to Italy? As if I needed more incentive. 🙂

    I only watched the first two episodes and I found them to be very stressful. My sister was a nutritionist for the state for years–doing local and federal inspections really trying to help them improve their systems. For instance, she constantly fought schools putting soda machines in the lunchrooms. They would move them out for the few days she was there, but then move them back in later because, in reality, they paid for new football uniforms. I’m afraid this shows that we are more concerned with money more than anything. That’s the culture in which we live. Capitalism has reduced us to a bottom line. We eat what they feed us and buy what we tell us we, “need.” Unfortunately, I don’t think the gov’t, corn and soy producers, and pharmaceutical companies are working together for our good. They are working together for the bottom-line profit that they *think* is for the good of all.

    I really wish our gov’t would also take a look at how meals –breakfast and lunch– affect children as a whole. It is a part of their education not only because it exposes our children to, “Meals consist of ‘this’ in our region” but also because it affects their ability to learn. Feeding children chemicals, trans-fats, and dyes can and does render some children incapable of learning because their bodies cannot process the junk and they become easily distracted and hyper. Others are crash after lunch from the sugar. (Granted, there are certainly many children that still have these issues and what they eat has nothing to do with their condition) When focusing on the bottom line $$ amount, they fail to see how this costs our society in general–health care, medications, hiring extra aides and specially trained teachers. (Once again, those teachers are needed in general, but I’ve seen many children completely change and eradicate the need for medication through changes in diet alone.)

    I really believe Jamie Oliver had good intentions, but, unfortunately, his good intentions were marred by producers and the editing process. Once again, as someone mentioned earlier, we sell drama. If we can’t use sex to sell, then we’ll sell watching people suffer and squirm.

    O.K. enough negative. We need to keep doing what we’re doing…making small changes, voting with our forks, and investing in local farms and distributors as much as possible. I really believe the word is spreading and that true change will not happen with the government getting on board. That would be great but the change needs to happen in people’s minds and hearts. The gov’t is not going to do that. It WILL happen through us… Moms who are raising our children to think differently about food and where it comes from and spreading the word through blogs like this one and Ann Marie’s. So, keep it up ladies!

    1. “I really wish our gov’t would also take a look at how meals –breakfast and lunch– affect children as a whole. It is a part of their education not only because it exposes our children to, “Meals consist of ‘this’ in our region” but also because it affects their ability to learn. Feeding children chemicals, trans-fats, and dyes can and does render some children incapable of learning because their bodies cannot process the junk and they become easily distracted and hyper. Others are crash after lunch from the sugar. (Granted, there are certainly many children that still have these issues and what they eat has nothing to do with their condition) When focusing on the bottom line $$ amount, they fail to see how this costs our society in general–health care, medications, hiring extra aides and specially trained teachers. (Once again, those teachers are needed in general, but I’ve seen many children completely change and eradicate the need for medication through changes in diet alone.)”

      YES, YES, YES.

  14. I didn’t watch this show, but I lived in Maine for several years and everything about their public system screamed of socialism. They did go as far as to tell me what I could and could give my children for a snack. My kids couldn’t have anything home baked or that looked too good, because it wouldn’t fair to another child who didn’t have the same ‘quality’ snack. It was CRAZY! They asked me not to feed my son breakfast at home because they were going to feed it to them in class, since some kids weren’t getting a nutritious breakfast at home. This is no joke. Seriously happened about 3 years ago. In some places they are already telling what we can put in our kids bag lunches and at other times they are telling us not to feed them, they’ll take care of it. What’s next?

  15. Fringe Girl — That is very scary, but unfortunately the Northeastern states are more liberal and socialistic than much of the rest of the country. I’d expect that in Maine. And as many have noted, European countries have a lot more control over gov’t schools and the food there; they are also, generally, more socialistic. However, this is balanced in Europe by a totally different food culture. For decades, Americans have been satisfied with junk and chemicals. We don’t value or enjoy our food, we just consume it. I’m so thankful to J-L for alerting me to the changes I’ve needed to make in my family’s eating.

    Just to answer Shelley above, yes, I’m pretty familiar with modern educational models and trends b/c I’ve been teaching high school since 1996. If you talk to any public school teacher, and ask her/him how much the gov’t regulations impede their abilities to actually TEACH information in the classroom, they will groan and then answer you. I’ve seen firsthand the lowering of standards in the textbooks I’ve used: less real material, more junk/pictures/subjective questions/filler. That doesn’t include the material that is scientifically questionable or even offensive that’s being taught. But clearly the standard of education this country enjoyed 50 years ago has declined. (Sorry to digress, J-L, but she asked.)

    1. Thanks, Mary Kathryn. I appreciate the response and am so glad there are vigilant people who are still (?) involved in the public school system. I am a college professor, but my children attend public school, so I was curious as to where your comment had come from.

  16. Overall, I thought it was a great show and I didn’t think the people of Huntington looked ignorant. I think they looked like the typical American people trying to feed their families and being very uneducated on the healthful and not so healthful foods out there. To me, it definitely reflects the people around me here in the Midwest. I’m appalled at how uneducated people are about the health of the food they put in their bodies. I think his show was a big step in the right direction regardless of Ryan I-never-sleep Seacrest.

    My fear is that the people who NEEDED to see this show were the people absolutely not tuning in.

  17. Sorry the program did not achieve your hopes – whilst I did not agree with everything Jamie did/said in the UK series – he definitely changed opinions on what was acceptable to serve kids in school, and standards have definitely improved – much less processed food, and more healthy alternatives.

    Not many will forget the episode where he showed what “bits” they used to make the chicken nuggets.

    1. Yeah, he did the same thing with the “bits” in the US and the kids ate it anyway, lol. It’s just a different food culture over here, and that is the crux of the matter. 🙁

  18. We watched the show too and I was a little disappointed.
    I see why he cried for oversight on what children were bringing from home after seeing that little girl with a lunch solely of jellybeans and potato chips. BUT I do not agree with the idea.

    I have a hard enough time with the oversight in our lunchroom…my DS (in K) would come home with all his fruits or veggies still in his lunch, I ask why didn’t you eat them? He replies I did not have time or was full. So I say next time eat a little of your sandwich, then some veggies so you get a little of everything (just like at home) He tells me he cannot because the teachers make them eat ALL their sandwich before they are allowed to eat anything else!! Come to find out they do it because so many children have dessert in their lunch they want to be sure they eat the good stuff first…ummm hello when did fruits or veggies become secondary???

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