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Dear Jamie Oliver: For A Successful Food Revolution, You MUST…

April 12, 2010

World renowned chef Jamie Oliver and I have a lot in common.  We’re both parents, both love to cook and we both have a strong sense of community.  But what binds us together better than any super glue ever could is our utter hatred for one thing: breakfast pizza.

Never heard of breakfast pizza?  Well, our kids eat it a few times a month at school.  In fact sometimes they have breakfast pizza and then “regular” pizza for lunch.  Pizza dough, cheap tomato sauce and a bland, unidentifiable meat product; prepared, frozen and then reheated for our kids to consume.

Truthfully, breakfast pizza is just the tip of the iceberg.  Jamie Oliver has started a Food Revolution in Huntington, West Virginia and hopes it will spread across the country.  Why?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, American society has become ‘obesogenic,’ characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, unhealthy foods, and physical inactivity. Enacting policy and environmental initiatives promoting healthy nutrition and making physical activity available, affordable, and easy will likely prove most effective in combating obesity.

Jamie started his work in Huntington after a national study pointed to the picturesque town as the most obese in the country.  Its residents are dying from complications of obesity at a staggering rate.

Every week the rest of us can flip on the tv and watch Jamie work to teach Huntington about eating healthy.  Each episode has pushed a shocking reality into the forefront.

1st graders who do not know what a potato, tomato or celery stalk is.  A high school freshman who may live only 5 more years because of her weight. A cafeteria full of children who don’t know how to cut food because they’re accustomed to only eating what can be scooped in a spork.  Local mortuary caskets so big they look like the hood of a ’67 chevy caprice.

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Jamie Oliver wants to change the way we see food and understand body health.

He has found many key factors to the problem, including breakfast pizza- that’s right- the foods we feed our kids every day in school cafeterias across this country are starting them on the path to an unhealthy lifestyle.  We feed our kids for an average of a dollar a day in public school cafeterias.  The foods are processed and preserved. Schools seem to focus on making kids feel full rather than feeding them nutritiously.

Why is breakfast pizza and things like it so acceptable?  We have the USDA to thank for that.  The United States Department of Agriculture outlines the requirements for public school meals.  At the elementary school level students are required to have 2 grains in each meal.  Breakfast pizza counts as 2 grains.  There’s the pizza dough, and the pizza crust. How stupid is that?

So far Jamie has taken over one elementary school cafeteria and one high school cafeteria.  He is serving food that is not only nutritious, but tastes good.  He is doing what is right for our kids, but being met with ridiculous obstacles.  The foods he prepares cost more.  And then there are those pesky USDA requirements.

A 7 veggie pasta may have been full of nutrition, but The USDA requires an additional serving of a separate vegetable.  Brown rice with chicken wasn’t enough grain for the USDA, so he tossed in a hamburger bun to appease the rules.

Jamie is making a difference and the food revolution is spreading.  But one bug standing in the way of improving our children’s nutrition- the USDA requirements.  They are baseless in their accuracy and dangerous to the health of our nation.  Until those requirements are completely revamped, the food revolution we so desperately need will only go so far.

My message to Jamie Oliver is this: go to our nation’s capital and take on the USDA.

To sign Jamie’s Food Revolution petition, click here.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2010 1:01 pm

    Thank you for this!! I may not be as vehement as you in my stance on public school foods – If a piece of pizza dough is big enough, I feel it should DEFINITELY count as two grain servings, not one! – but I liked what you said about schools focusing on kids feeling FULL rather than being FED.

  2. LizB permalink
    April 14, 2010 10:05 am

    Funny you should say that… Check out this USDA press release dated 4/12/10:http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0

  3. April 14, 2010 11:21 pm

    "the foods he prepares cost more money". This is no small thing for huge numbers of people. In the case of schools too, with teacher lay-offs, school closings and endless budget cuts. Granted obesity is a problem. The solution should be finding ways to stop that other than being more physical. This only perpetuates our animal nature. We must get past that.

  4. SolvayGirl permalink
    April 24, 2010 12:03 pm

    Temy—unfortunately the only real cure for obesity (and just plain being overweight) is to eat fewer calories made up of healthier foods and exercise. What do you want to do, give every school kid a coupon for lap band surgery?

  5. broken clock permalink
    April 27, 2010 8:27 am

    Temy – the food he prepares costs more per serving, for reason: for years we have been economizing on school lunches by driving down the per unit cost while still trying to meet the federal guidelines.

    Shouldn’t providing nutricious food that kids will actually eat and that encourages healthful habits be the primary goal, instead of saving pennies a meal?

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