Tuesday, March 30, 2010

JAMIE OLIVER...bless his pea-picking heart!

I've been sort of following the program on ABC that Jamie Oliver did here in Huntington W Va about our nation's eating habits. The premise of the program was that Jamie came to Huntington to try to address the issue of their being named the "unhealthiest city in America".

If you're familiar with Jamie from his programs on PBS and the Food Network, you would know that he is a huge supporter of healthy eating mostly by eating foods that are natural and grown locally. It comes as no surpise that he is totally blown away by the things he finds Americans eating - and not in a good way. He's taken this one step further and managed to infiltrate the school lunch programs in Huntington and what he's found is absolutely astonishing.

Since I don't have kids or grandkids of my own I suppose I've been relatively uncaring about what we're doing to our children in public schools. But this program has certainly made me stop and take stock of what I'm seeing.

Each program has had one or two extraordinarily surprising ideas that have been brought forward that I simply cannot get out of my head. During the first show I watched, Jamie was working in the elementary school lunch kitchen and discovered that there was absolutely ZERO real cooking going on. Every single thing that they served to the kids was pre-fabricated, pre-processed and for the most part pre-cooked and frozen. Their work was only to thaw foods and reheat them for service to the kids. All the food came in cardboard boxes and was stored in the freezer.

OMG! Take that to the next level and figure out that most likely those kids were being fed the same sorts of convenience foods at home and it came as no surprise that when Jamie asked a classroom of first graders to name vegetables as he held them up in front of the class, the kids could not name one single vegetable.

Jamie's goal has been to change the thinking at the schools and bring REAL food in for the kids but there have been multiple challanges - not the least of which has been the school administration itself by flinging guidelines and paperwork in the way of simply trying to feed those kids something healthier and natural.

At one point Jamie took some elementary kids into his kitchen and gave them a demonstration of what goes into making a chicken nugget and it's absolutely disgusting. I may never eat another nugget again.

During the last program came my other "I can't get this out of my head" moments when Jamie finally got the kitchen to serve up real lunches only to be told that there were no eating utensils available for the kids. The statement being that they had no need to use knives and forks to eat with.

In other words, these kids had never been served any foods at that school that required the use of a fork and knife. Was it any wonder that when, during the first show, when Jamie tried to get the kids to eat salads it failed, maybe partly due to the fact that they expected the kids to eat them with their fingers? When they finally dragged out the cutlery and gave it to the kids at lunch it also came as some surprise that most of those same kids had no idea how to use them properly. This speaks volumes not only about schools, but what they're being fed - and how - at home.

If parents aren't teaching their children how to eat properly at home and the schools aren't doing it (and I'm not at all saying this is the school's responsibility), then how are they going to learn? At one point Jamie was in the lunch room with the kids teaching them how to use a knife to cut food and the principal decided that since Jamie was doing it he could too - what a unique concept - the principal interacting to teach the children a new skill!

If you're interested in seeing some of this program I saw it on Hulu.com, the program is called Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Find out information about what he's trying to do and more on what we've already done in this country at www.Jamiesfoodrevolution.com

And PLEASE - if anyone is reading this and you've got young children or grandchildren - PLEASE teach them to eat foods that aren't pre-processed and something that requires a knife and fork so they can learn decent table habits.

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