Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jamie Oliver: Home Run?

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Did you watch the opening episode of Jamie Oliver's new Food Revolution series in Los Angeles last night?

Even if you think reality television is a bit hokey, Oliver did a brilliant job of pinpointing some of the school food issues that often make me want to quit this job.

One is the indifference of many parents to what schools are serving kids as food.

Let's acknowledge up front that there are some incredibly active and engaged parents working on this issue. Sometimes you don't hear about them: they are totally focused on fixing their neighborhood school, not making a name for themselves in the blogosphere. But generally speaking, most parents are AWOL. What will it take to motivate them, if not the current health crisis affecting our children around food?

Secondly, I hope you took proper note of how schools would just as soon not have prying eyes looking into their food service operations.

Los Angeles is no different from most school districts I've encountered. The food they serve is kept secret, away from public view. Why? Because even in districts that claim to be exceeding the most stringent government standards, what they are actually serving is crap. You can't know that from the menus. You have to be present in the cafeteria and see what the kids are getting on their trays.

My wife and I watched the show together and she was horrified over the segment where Oliver demonstrated the ammonia treated beef that's used as a filler in hamburger, and the fact that the government does not consider it an ingredient. It doesn't appear on any label.

Finally, it was plain to see why the dairy industry is winning the battle over chocolate milk (read sugar) in schools. Oliver showed up at a California School Nutrition Association convention where a dairy rep was holding forth in a breakout session on why schools need to keep flavored milk.

Sugary flavored milk is a big winner for Big Dairy, which explains why the industry is spending millions on its "Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk!" campaign. It has operatives all over the country telling school food service directors that kids will dissolve in a heap of rickets and osteoporosis if they don't have access to milk containing the sugar equivalent of Mountain Dew.

The dairy industry buys its way into school nutrition associations with sponsorships on the state and the national level, which gives it immediate entree to hold those sales talks where it enlists food service directors in its cause. The industry then trots out a bogus "study"--really a marketing report it paid for--showing that kids won't drink milk unless it has sugar in it. It pulled the same trick most effectively with a gullible Washington Post reporter yesterday.

As Oliver pointed out, the U.S. is probably alone in the developed world in allowing dairy interests to push sugary milk in schools. According to Oliver, flavored milk is not allowed in schools in Great Britain, nor in all of Europe.

Oliver was totally dejected at the end of the episode, when his crew filled a school bus with sugar (or sand) to demonstrate how much of the sweet stuff Los Angeles kids are consuming each week, but only a handful of parents showed up to see it.

If I have any beef at all with Jamie Oliver, its the tired and incorrect information he often gives about what causes people--or children--to get fat. It's not the fat in the mayo or the ice cream, Jamie. It's all the carbs in the hamburger buns, the fries, and the sugary milkshakes.

Otherwise, right on, Jamie.


  1. I am so glad Jamie and his Food Revolution are back on the air! Nothing riles people up or reaches the masses quite like cable reality TV.

    My heart went out to him as he sat sad and discouraged in that sugar coated school bus. I identified with that hopeless feeling that no matter what you say the majority of people still just dont care all that much about what they feed themselves, their families or their students.

    Jamie's efforts to raise awareness makes the job of those of us "in the field" a little easier and definitely more legitimized.

  2. Way to go Jamie Oliver and betterDCschoolFood. What could be more important than our children't health, which is directly linked to their nutrition. This is a call to action to reinvent the school lunch program nationwide.

  3. Don't give up the bloody food revolution Jamie!

    It says it all when Europe does NOT have flavored milk in their schools.
    I think there is a boat load of money to be made by shoving flavored milk down
    America's throats in schools. One step away from organized crime. The school
    system should be ashamed of themselves. Stand up America and tell
    em, We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore!

  4. Jamie next trip should be to Newark, Nj. A few years ago they stopped serving breakfast in the cafeteria and serving it in the classroom to ensure that every student eats breakfast. Great idea, yes, but it took away the quality of a good breakfast. They have replaced cereal, fruit and yogurt ( which was available in the cafeteria) with donuts, muffins, and cream cheese filled bagels. My daughter eats breakfast at home and packs her lunch because she says lunch is disgusting and that they serve mystery meat, turkey ham that looks green and has fat on it or mushy chicken nuggets and whole milk that of course is not organic. I have always instilled in her the benefits of healthy eating and glad that she is able to make healthy choices. But what about those children who have not been exposed to or whose parents .may only be able to afford processed foods. If schools could provide healthy options at least they would have one or two healthy meals. And it would be a start to educating our children on healthy food choices. Newark Board of Education should use a part of that million dollars that Mark Zuckerberg gave them towards providing healthy food choices in school and educating families on healthy eating .

  5. Nicely said. Especially the correction about carbs. It's not a stretch to say the focus on fat 30 years ago drove us into the waiting arms of processed carbs. Enter diabetes & obesity epidemic. Staggering to think that diabetes is virtually entirely preventable. We're proving what's possible with a delicious honest pizza made with 10 grain/seeds, prebiotic fiber, no freaky chemicals. Affordable. Still round, still comes in a square box, delivered in about 30 minutes. Naked Pizza. Coming to D.C. in May.

  6. Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk is a completely SCAM!!! They have this huge link titled, "Raise your hand" and as soon as you click it, it immediately tallies you as a 'supporter'. I was just curious and wanted to read about what I'm raising my hand to.

    Additionally, they have a youtube video... they send all comments for approval, why? To block anybody who doesn't support their view.

    The political nature of this campaign is so obvious. It enfuriates me. How can anybody think that the solution to kids drinking more milk is to doctor it up. Maybe we should add alcohol to the milk too. That might insight them to drink more. The list of additives to increase milk consumption is very long. None of them should even be considered.

  7. Hello Ed,

    I'm new to your blog. I think it's great that all of you in Parents for Better D.C. School Food are helping spread the word about this concern. I watched Jamie Oliver's School Revolution and the American School Revolution on YouTube and, like you, I'm glad people are taking action and trying to get things changed.

    I would like to watch the new season, but I don't live in the US and I'll have to wait for someone to upload it on YouTube to watch it. I love Jamie's work and will always follow his campaigns.

    I think we can never stress enough the importance of a good nutrition. It's unbelievably how something like food, that should be one our primary sources of well-being, has turned to be really destructive in our lives.

    So congrats on your blog!! This is the way to go!! =)

  8. How does anyone reach Jamie Oliver? The support@jamiesfoodrevolution gives an error message. I think it is unfair to keep pumping out emails and have as many entities as Jamie has on his site, yet leave NO way to get in touch with him or his staff.

    I wanted to write this in reply to the flavored milk campaign:

    Jamie - While I am glad you are trying to make school food healthier, I think that pushing dairy milk of any flavor is not healthy for kids.

    Dairy milk is intended for baby cows, not humans, just like human milk is intended for baby humans. It is as unnatural for us to drink cows' milk as it is for us to feed human breast milk to cows. It is also part of the mistreatment and commodification of animals to keep them constantly pregnant and lactating until they are spent and then sent to be slaughtered. Consuming dairy increases the risk of heart disease, which starts early in children. No one wins here.

    There are many healthy drinks we can supply schools with other than dairy milk. We should be pushing water and naturally-flavored water in the schools, soymilk, almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, and coconut water.

    Additionally, children can get far greater amounts and higher quality of calcium with kale, spinach and other greens added to meals. We need to train cooks how to prepare these in a flavorful and healthy way. That is where the answer lies, not in getting kids to drink fatty, artery-clogging dairy milk, white as it may be.

    Thank you.

  9. Thanks Jamie for all the hard work you put in! My children and I are gluten and dairy intolerant ... which means that we can not eat 99% of the processed food in the USA. Even things like the majority of deli cuts are off limits to us. I always ask "Why would we out wheat in THAT" .. but to no avail. It would be fantastic for the schools to actually make food from raw ingredients ... what a healthy choice for all, and children with food allergies and my children would actually be able to eat some of the food also, as we would know what it is made of! Right now ingredients are truly a mystery.

  10. I think all schools ought to switch back to plain milk. Choclate and other flavors are full of sugar and carbs.

    We kneed drinks like water, seltzer, plain white milk, Juice.. and let,s for go the sugary snack,s and go for trail mix, Fruit, Gronla.

  11. Jamie, it is so good to see you back on the air and back on the crusade. I enjoy watching your show with my 10 year old. Her gym teacher encourages the students to watch it and her response is "my mom has it set up for a series recording". I admit, sometimes I falter and go the "easy route" but for a whole I am trying my best to get out of the quick processed American way. I had NO IDEA flavored milk was banned in Europe. I am fortunate to have a daughter who loves milk and despises pop "fizzy drinks". Watching your show has encouraged her to make healthier choices and has made her think more about what she eats. Thank you for that!

    Kathy Lockwood
    Orland Park,IL

  12. When I was in school we only got chocolate milk on Friday. I looked forward to it all week. Yes, I think it should be a treat, served occasionally, not everyday. (But it IS delish!)

  13. "It's not the fat in the mayo or the ice cream, Jamie. It's all the carbs in the hamburger buns, the fries, and the sugary milkshakes."

    I liked your post and thank you, but ending with more misinformation wasn't a great conclusion for me. Eating more than your body metabolizes is what makes people gain weight. Not the type of food. Obviously high sugar/fat foods tend to have less nutritive value which encourages people to eat more than they should, but I could be skinny and healthy eating a balanced diet that included plenty of sugar, salt, fat, or whatever, and conversely I could become very obese by eating too much tofu. If all students started drinking 2 "good" regular milks instead of 1 "bad" flavored milk, they would be consuming more calories, sugar and fat than they do now...would people have a big problem with it still?

    That being said, I do agree that flavored milks in schools are a net negative and the Dairy industry's lobbying is simply disgusting when a child's health in on the line. Does that Dairy guy in the first episode of season 2 actually look himself in the mirror and not want to quit his job or re-think his life choices?

    It's a little overwhelming to realize between diet and exercise how much would really need to happen to affect real change, but I commend Jaime and all of you for at least taking a shot, it's more than I've ever done.

  14. I do beleive in what Jamie is trying to do. Wholeheartedly! But, I am signed up all over his web sites and as a "Food Revolution actvist" and no e-mails were sent to me regarding his busload of sugar demo. I live in LA and woudl have been thre for sure! I wonder if it makes better reality TV that only a handful of parents show up? Jamie's publicity and overall communication about LAUSD is quite poor. If you want to support and rally parents, you have to let them know what is going on and about upcoming events and how to effect change. FYI. There is no kitchen in LA right now, even though it was featured on the show....

  15. I agree with an earlier writer that schools should not be pushing dairy milk at all. Cow's milk is for calves and not for human children. It is linked to many of our western diseases. Please check this out through reading the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Dr. Colin Campbell. The upcoming documentary "Forks Over Knives", to be released in May, contains valuable information for all Americans. The dairy industry, including The Dairy Council, has a strong influence on the US government, unfortunately. Please do some research on this and it will greatly benefit your family's health. Thank you.

  16. Kelly McCandless from CanadaApril 21, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    Well I am from Canada we don't feed our kids breakfast an lunch at school here ,they bring their own from home our go home for lunch an eat breakfast before going to school,in high schools there is a Caffateria that the children can buy food from but the food is prepared by the students in the cooking classes an their teachers,not to say that it is all healthy but for the most part is not all that bad,I can't speak for all the schools in Canada but this is how it is done here where I live in Mississauga 20 mins outside Toronto,But I can tell you that I am still outraged about this,even though it does not effect me directly,this is still children we are talking about an these children should be educated an given the choice to eat healthy.I can't believe this is what they are doing to these children,they are setting them up to fail !!! This stage in their life will determine how they live the rest of their lives,An this is just soo sad to see.. Personally I would pull my child out of school or have them bring their own food (if they are allowed)not sure how things work over there,but there is NO WAY I would allow people to do this to my children an these parents have every right to be outraged about this,I am so thankful for Jamie an that SOMEBODY is trying to do something about this for the sake of these chilren,Thank God for people who actually care about these children an not just making a quick buck, God love you Jamie ,Keep up the good work ,You have support from all over the world !!!
    Kelly xo

  17. lmfao what do you mean its not the fat in the mayo or ice cream? sure carbs do the trick too, but really? Fat is fat, you eat fat you get fat, simple as that, from the cat in the hat.

  18. I'm going to see if I can watch it...sounds excellent. Real milk is so good. We decided to get a "cow share" so that we can have raw unpasteurized unhomogenized milk...fresh from a cow. So good.

    I do love sugar. BUT not chocolate milk. I try to eat and drink a balanced diet, so a little sugar won't hurt, but certainly NOT anything on a regular the children who drink sweetened milk everday.

    AND regarding the consumption of cow's milk for's really up to us. We should be educated about what there is out there...and if we choose to drink cow's milk, that's a choice we make. I drank breastmilk as a child. So did my children... I do drink more water than anything else!!!

  19. Really, the point is we need to offer the most nutritious food to our children, for their health, that means not processed, nor added sugar to make it "taste" good, compromising...but ultimately, it's a CHOICE we must make. We need to fight for the right to eat unprocessed (not treated with ammonia and unbleached) raw, healthy food!!! I don't trust the FDA.


  21. Obesity is a real and growing problem in America - this is pretty universally recognized. Not only do homes need to help the battle against obesity, but our schools definately need to help. Cut out the sugar - help our future generations become and stay healthy. Recess - let them run, play, exercise. What are we doing to our children?