Re-Learning How to Eat with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Last night was the preview for Chef Jamie Oliver’s new television show, Food Revolution. I will say from the start as much as I love to cook, and I even opened a coffee house/cafe to fulfill this love of cooking, I rarely watch cooking shows and had never seem Jamie’s TV show. Naturally I have heard of him and have seen his cookbooks at bookstores, so I was curious about this new show since my mom told me it was about healthy food and cooking.

In case you have not heard about it the basic story line is Jamie goes into a town in W. Virginia that has been ranked the most unhealthy city in America with a plan to change how the community eats, since this is an essential starting point for good health. He is actually able to go into an elementary school and change their menu…but the kids have to want to eat his food! He also opens a community kitchen where anyone can come to learn about food and how to cook.

This is Jamie’s Manifesto for his Food Revolution:

“I believe that every child in America has the right to fresh, nutritious school meals, and that every family deserves real, honest, wholesome food. Too many people are being affected by what they eat. It’s time for a national revolution.

America needs to stand up for better food!

You live in an amazing country full of inspirational people and you have the power to change things. With your help, we can get better food into homes, schools and communities all over America and give your kids a better future.”

If you go to his web site you can even sign a petition supporting this manifesto.

As I watched the show I was surprised at the resistance that he met and the anger that he provoked. People were really mad that someone would come in to their town, and the school’s kitchen, and want to help them improve their health by changing what they eat. I saw how “normal” it has become for people to be overweight and ill and that even when offered solutions they are resistant. Who wants to be fat and sick? it seems like an easy task to want to help people but that is not always the case.

I think that one of the basic issues is that people feel threatened and have become so accustomed to this really strange way of life here in the US, where ketchup is considered a vegetable in school lunches, and a sink and microwave qualify as a kitchen….Need I say more?

I realized that it is great to promote farmers markets and local products, but what do you do when people have forgotten, or never even knew, how to cook? This is an important starting point. But maybe even before that we have to look at reeducating people about what real food is. In his show Jamie goes to the elementary school kitchen and every thing is frozen or packaged, the kids are eating pizza for breakfast and the milk is flavored. So what are the kids in our schools learning about food, or better put as Michael Pollan calls it, edible food-like substances? They are missing out on knowing what real food is and being fed low quality “food-like substances” that are creating a host of health issues and bad habits.

Here are some facts from Jamie’s Food Revolution web site, you can read the entire list here.

“Obesity, and with it diabetes, are the only major health problems that are getting worse in this country, and they’re getting worse rapidly.”        CDC Director Thomas Frieden, told the Weight of the Nation Conference in July 2009.

-More than two thirds, 68%, of American adults are overweight and one person in three (over 33%) is obese, that’s 72 million people

-After smoking, obesity is America’s biggest cause of premature death it is also a major contributor to the health problems which are the leading killer diseases:  it’s linked to 70% of heart disease; after smoking, it’s the biggest cause of cancer; and over 80% of type 2 diabetes is related to being overweight.

-Obesity accounts for nearly 10% of US healthcare spending.  This amounts to $147 billion annually

-Healthcare costs are 42% higher for someone who is obese

-Nearly one in three (32%, 23 million) American children are obese or overweight. In total, 17% of children of all ages are obese, but this rises to over 25% in all but three states for ages 10-17

-Most obese children (over 80%) will also be obese as adults.

-Today’s generation of children are predicted to be the first which will die at a younger age than their parents due to obesity-related bad health.

-8% of the population, 24 million people, in the US have diabetes of which more than 90% is type 2.

-One quarter of all adults, another 57 million people, are estimated to have pre-diabetes.

-65% of people with diabetes die of heart disease and stroke.

-More than 7% of teenagers (2 million) are estimated to be pre-diabetic, with symptoms of high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels. At the early stages, the symptoms can start to be reversed within a few weeks.  By controlling their diet, taking exercise and losing weight, people can avoid the need for expensive medication.

Pretty serious stuff here….It really is time for learning a new way in so many areas or we are going to continue killing ourselves, this country and the planet.

I was a bit amused as the show was ending thinking about this young Brit on TV teaching Americans how to eat since for years food in England was joked about since it had a really bad reputation all through Europe. It gave me hope….if things could change in the UK, and they have, then we can also change here in the USA.

A change is happening although slowly and maybe this seemingly crazy reality-type show can make an impact. I say whatever helps move us along is worthwhile. So break out your cookbooks and let’s all get cooking again as we did in this country when obesity was not epidemic, illness was not “normal”, health costs were manageable and our rivers were clean.