Jamie Oliver Still Isn't Offering Real Solutions, But Maybe That's Fine From Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution to Beyoncé, Battling Childhood Obesity
Tonight, the new season of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution premiers on ABC.
The show follows a familiar plot line: it's Jamie vs. the evil overseers of school lunches. It can be fun, but as I've written before, the show doesn't offer practical solution to childhood obesity.
As Margo Wootan, a nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said at a last month at MIT's Knight Science Journalism Food Boot Camp, "I’m a fan of Jamie Oliver, but I don’t believe it’s realistic. Not on $2.72"—the Federal reimbursement rate for free lunches. "I’m not a proponent of scratch cooking. What's important is the food is attractive and tastes good."
And Oliver's food hasn't met that requirement. A study (PDF) of his "food revolution" in Huntington, West Virginia, found that his new school menus, while marginally healthier, "were not well-accepted and had a negative impact on meal participation and milk consumption."
Furthermore, Jane Black, an author who's been documenting West Virginia in the wake of Oliver's first season, argues that tackling childhood obesity shouldn't focus on schools alone. She writes:
The reasons school-food reform became a rallying point have more to do with political strategy than with the likelihood that school meals will fundamentally change children’s eating habits or help them lose weight. Simply put, it’s just easier to attack the way the government feeds kids than the way their parents do.
The evidence is stacking up against Oliver. But maybe we shouldn't expect him do anything more than bring an awareness of nutritional issues to a broader audience. After all, this fun video from Beyoncé and Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign doesn't even pretend to be informative. It's just about getting people interested. Maybe that's enough.