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'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution': Will It Work?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
UPDATED editor's note: Thanks for all of your supportive comments. Jamie, the dailySpark would LOVE to interview you! Readers, let's tell Jamie how and why we can help his mission.

Jamie Oliver is better known by the moniker "The Naked Chef," which, salacious as it seems, actually refers to his clean, simple, and healthy style of cooking than his apparel in the kitchen. After spending the better part of the last decade leading a one-man healthy food crusade in the U.K., he's hopped the pond to take on America's obesity epidemic. (Disclosure: I'm a HUGE fan of Jamie Oliver!)

In his new ABC six-show series, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, the chef starts in Huntington, W.Va., which is statistically one of the unhealthiest cities in America and in 2008 was named the fattest city in the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jamie Oliver has a lengthy, impressive resume: He launched a successful campaign to introduce healthy food to British schools and put up his own home as collateral to start an organization to train 15 young adults who have a disadvantaged background, criminal record or history of drug abuse, to work in the restaurant business

Oliver, a father of three with one more on the way, is passionate about cooking and food, but he's even more passionate about kids and family. His motives aren't financial. They aren't egotistical. They're altruistic. Yes, he's a bit of a zealot, but shouldn't we all be when it comes to our health?

Some people argue that a Brit has no business poking his nose in America's obesity problem. But he does: 1. He's already had success instituting similar programs in England and 2. He knows that if he can make a difference here in the States, the rest of the world will follow our lead.

As with any reality TV show, it's hard to distinguish reality from TV, but this one has real potential--and it's certainly food for thought. What kind of welcome did Oliver receive when he arrived in Huntington, a beautiful city of 50,000 people along the Ohio River?

I grew up in a small, blue-collar town in southeastern Ohio, where the people work hard and take pride in it. It's the kind of town where the locals gather on weekends at the VFW, the Legion, and the Moose for steak frys, fish frys, and all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinners.

When someone passes away, ladies at church whip up tater tot casseroles, chicken and noodles, and creamed corn for the family. If someone gets in a car accident, loses everything in a fire, or falls ill, friends and family often will host a benefit, complete with home-cooked comfort food.

When I tuned in to watch a sneak peek of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC this Sunday, I was reminded of my hometown. The people are proud, and they're skeptical of an outsider--from England, no less--who's trying to change their long-held traditions. Huntington seems very close-knit, with a strong sense of community and deep-held loyalty to the city and its residents. If they ultimately decide to make healthy choices, those traits are going to be very beneficial to Oliver and his team.

For now, in the first episode, those are hurdles for Oliver.

The lunch ladies school cooks (Jamie learned the hard way not to call them lunch ladies) are fighting him every step of the way.

When he's outraged at pizza for breakfast, dehydrated potato products and sweetened milk, they're nonchalant. It's food, they're on a budget, and the kids will eat it. When he tries to serve his healthier food (real chicken, brown rice, vegetables) to the kids, they choose the standard pizza, nuggets, and fries. (No surprise, considering that it can take up to 10 tries to get a kid to like a new food.)

Oliver is interviewed by a local shock jock, and the TV editing makes it seem like he's steamrolled by the DJ. (Watch the clip below.)

There are some hopeful moments: Jamie helps an overweight teen learn to cook and talks to a pastor who's trying to save his congregation from meeting their maker prematurely.

Still, most of the media headlines are similar to this: West Virginia eats Jamie Oliver for breakfast.

I sought out the local paper's web site and found a different, more hopeful story, along with (warning) some spoilers.

As it turns out, even that "bully" of a DJ is eating his vegetables and cooking at home with the help of a slow cooker.

I hope you'll tune in to watch the show when it airs on Friday. (If you miss it, don’t worry: full episodes are available on

In the mean time, tell me what you think: Do you support Oliver's mission? Do we need to overhaul school lunches? Will you tune in to watch the show?

What do you think we need to do to get kids to eat right?

If you're a parent, do your kids' schools serve healthy options or is it mostly nuggets, pizza, and fries? If you're not a parent, think back to your own cafeteria food: Was it healthy or mostly processed?

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I love what Jamie is doing to change the young people lives obesity is very bad for young people. Keep up the good work Jamie. Report
As a child growing up in the 60s and 70s in a little country called Malaysia, fast food was unheard of and eating out was a very rare treat. We had home-cooked food all the time. When I had children of my own in the late 80s and early 90s, they grew up in an environment where MacDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc etc were words in their vocabulary long before they could read and write. I undertook a "Jamie Oliver" effort to ensure that my children and their friends grew up with home-cooked as often as possible, fresh food most of the time and fast food as marginally as possible. And it has brought about health dividends to all of them.
The point is this: Jamie Oliver is doing the right thing. Getting kids at a young age back to good, wholesome food. He is trying to make sure that as adults, they make the right choices with their food and their children subsequently with their food, too. It should not matter that he's British - SparkPeople is American and I follow their advice on food, exercise and health. This is one area that crosses international boundaries and rightfully so! Report
But of course I support Jaime Oliver's quest! After all, he is simply trying to spread the good, whole, delicious nutrition SPARK.
The more of us, in any and all locations, change our eating habits, the more likely he, and us ;) will be successful!
I believe in taking inspiration/learning/healing from anywhere that speaks to me.
And I believe in supporting good efforts in turn.
I love that you are a fan too! Report
The government dictates..My opinion is..the children are given way too much unhealthy food ..and if they request not to have more food put on the plate..their request is ignored .and added unwanted food ends up being wasted..lunch ladies have shared this info with myself. They too are very frustrated..!
Educating is key..but my question is..Why would the federal government want our children to be unhealthy..and why are they dumbing them down in the classroom?
Oh I do appreciate Jamie Oliver's quest..English or not..he cares ! Thanks so much for standing up for a good cause!! Report
Jamie needs to be heard all over this country ...his message is so important Report
I work in a school cafeteria. Yes there are improvements to be made but I work in one of the strictist in the country and the guidelines are supposed to be in place within the next few years for all states. We serve all whole grain nothing is fried the is fresh fruits and vegetables everyday as an option plus salad served as an option everyday. Our issue working there has never been with giving our children good nutrition because we do and encourage the kids to take more fruits and vegetables is keeping our jobs from the private companies who are more concerned with profit over quality and getting the school district to realize the value they are getting when faced with budget deficts and feeling its the easiest place to make cuts. I do also feel it takes time and you can't shove it down a kids throat its a gradual process to change their taste buds and get them to realize the importance. Elementary kids just want it to taste good but parents need to be feeding them these things at home so their used to the tastes, middle school wants more indendence and high school they want choice with value for their dollar. It can't all be put on outside people though if you don't start with these things at home. Report
In one of the first episodes from Los Angeles, Jaime fills and entire school bus (and then some) with white sugar -- the amount of sugar in the flavored milks that get served to kids every day in that school system. For me it really showed how the obsession with getting kids to eat certain forms of food can lead to really bad decisions.

I ate public school lunches as a kid and I have to confess that I would never have skipped my chocolate milk. (We drank white at home.) I was skinny then, but feeling like I 'deserve' a sweet treat at lunch was something that followed me to work. And when you sit at a desk for 8 hours, that extra 100 calories (plus the craving/satisfaction cycle for the rest of the day) adds up to real weight.

Our school lunches have been in need of an overhaul for a long time but the bottom line always means more (to our government) than our children's health. The longer I study about food the more greed for the largest profit stands out over the health of the people the food or food by-product is being sold to.

If it wasn't for this article I would have absolutely no idea about Jaime Oliver and his mission. So thank you for sharing so I know of a person to support! May his endeavors prove successful! Report
It's likely been mentioned in many of the comments, but many of those obese people, children and adults, have significant health issues, and that increases health care costs for the rest of us. Everyone needs to accept responsibility for themselves and their families, by taking care of their bodies. There are certainly heavy people that have have issues that cause the problem, but in my opinion and experience, the majority make excuses rather than stepping up. Report
Jamie puts his heart & soul into steering the population into making wiser food choices. I'm not a huge fan, but I do respect him and think he has taken on a massive task. Sometimes I wonder though if people (generally speaking), will wait until their crisis point, before making any changes that take effort. The old adage, you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Well done Jamie, keep up your hard work. Report
I agree jamie oliver is trying to help us in the states the show is amazing I cryed when I seen the changes he was able to do with some of the children I'm from a small town in indiana I live in a small town in kentucky now we do have our pride that we let get in our way at times when it comes to our eating habitsbut I'm trying some of jamies ideals about fresh veggies&fruits when they r in season I made my garden bigger this past summer2so that I had no reason why I couldn't eat healthier I say we should support jamie and make america a healthier place2live go jamie oliver&go sparks people Report
I watched his series on Hulu for those that said they missed it. It is sad what we feed kids, the next generation to run this world. Make sure Jamie knows how many people are on Spark and will read the article , also ramdom outside people who drop in. It will only help his ratings and his cause. Isn't ratings everything. Report
Loved the show! I don't see why you wouldn't want to change the school lunches if you can make them healthier and on budget. He can come to my hometown anyday and I will fight right along side of him! Report
I have seen this show. I found it amazing, the resistance from the school systems to even try a new way of looking at meal preparation Report
Oh I agree wholeheartedly with Jamie! the only way this is going it work in the states is if the parents stand up and make the change. Parents need to complain, and take charge of their school thru PTO, or school board meetings. The schools will continue to use the cheapest, most convenient foods as possible. no matter what the nutritional or chemical conciseness is. Parents and community leaders need to speak up. we can do it! Report
I live in Canada, and there are very few schools in my area that have meals supplied, but if my kids went to one of the schools on this show, I would be taking a stand. Good luck Jamie! Report
I'm glad he is in America revealing the poison. We all should demand more. This is our economy and we are the consumers we can demand and buy what we want. I want healthy food for me and my family. It does cots more but we can change that. Supply and demand and smart choices. Planning..we have the answers and Jaime is reminding us! Report
I'm glad he is in America revealing the poison. We all should demand more. This is our economy and we are the consumers we can demand and buy what we want. I want healthy food for me and my family. It does cots more but we can change that. Supply and demand and smart choices. Planning..we have the answers and Jaime is reminding us! Report
I have two children. My oldest is 15 1/2 and in high school. My youngest is less than 4 months. I hope school lunch reform has taken place before she enters school. My son's middle school reformed an extreme that no one should ever go to. The receptionist, when I was enrolling him mid-year, advised that he bring his lunch from home because the "organic, nutritious" food was horrible. So horrible that the teachers refused to eat it. That's saying a lot. I understand getting rid of fried foods and bringing in more fruits and veggies, but tofu pie and 9-grain bread is a little much for a kid to handle, especially when they probably aren't eating that kind of food on a regular basis.

Eating healthy starts at home. If a child is eating fruits and veggies, whole-grains, and lean meats daily, there won't be much fuss at lunch time if the school lunches serve these same things. We as parents, need to teach our kids starting at 6 months (when they start eating and not just drinking from a bottle/breast), that veggies, fruits, and lean meats and whole grains aren't just good for them, but yummy too. My daughter will be eating the yummy food I cook, not just stuff from a box or jar. The list of ingredients on a jar of pea puree is not peas and water. If I'm going to serve peas, I want her to eat peas, not starchy fillers.

Yes, school lunch programs (and breakfast too for those that serve it) need reformed. More steamed veggies with no-salt seasonings, grilled meats, not fried, and whole fruits should replace the fried nuggets and potatoes (french fries) that make up most of the menu today. Healthy options abound, can be made for about the same amount of money, and taste better overall (when prepared correctly). Report
I'd love to see the food revolution actually make changes in our school district, but I think it's just not possible. Our township has 9 schools, and only 2 of them have any sort of real, functioning kitchen: the Middle School and the High School. And I think the High School's kitchen is rather limited, as well. The grade schools have "kitchen offices" in tiny rooms that must have served, at one time, as janitorial closets/offices. There are stacked ovens and sinks and a SMALL counter to place boxed food when it comes in until it can be put in the ovens or into the refrigerators or freezers that are actually located in the "All Purpose Room" (Gym/Auditorium/Lunchroom). Food for lunch is delivered every morning because there's no place to store it for more than a couple hours. The fight he's waging now is a red-tape, bureaucratic matter. The one that comes in later, if he's successful on any meaningful level in this country, is a logistical one - and it's even harder. :/ Report
I am a school nurse,and of course I notice the breakfast and lunches that are being served. It should be a crime to serve our children the stuff they are calling food all in the name of staying within a budget. Our children cannot think as well as they would if they could have a healthier diet. I also see health problems such as obesity,girles as young as 8 or 9 strating their menstrual cycles, an increase in ADD and ADHD( all with a direct link to diet). Some of the future problems will be an increase in Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, and Kidney Disease to name just a few. I support Jamie Oliver and wish there was a way I could get him to Kansas City. But most of all I wish most of America would change their health habbits, we are one of the wealthiest countries on earth yet we are one of the unhealthiest. Report
I absolutely think that our children's school lunches need to be "healthied up a bit" and i love that he has taken on this challenge to do so. I do hope i get to see the show...will have to check my guide for it. I have seen advertisements for it... Report
Jamie is brilliant and caring he is very kind and ambitious to try and take on such a mission I would love for him to come to my daughters' school. I wish there were people like him around when I was young -I grew up around people that think there is no connection between what you eat and what your health is like they figured it's all just fate hahaha, they also think the one who eats the cheapest wins pour on the white pasta and white bread and butter -yuk -so I am trying to teach my daughter healthy ways and it boggles my mind that people like us (and we are by no means extremists) are outcasts -what a sad comment on our society. Thank you Jamie for trying to open peoples eyes. " ) Report
Jamie is a terrific father husband chef and mentor. I love watching his shows, and watching the preparations of the wonderful dishes that he prepares. Jamie is an asset to our health, and I feel that he is doing a terrific job educating the younger generation, as well as the older. Watch his shows!!! Look at his fantastic garden...let's all learn from scratch with this gentlemen. Report
The time to teach our kids to eat healthy is when they are small....starting with baby food ...give to them a wide varity of veggies and fruit...when they go to school they will know what real food is and will not be throwin it in the trash. I will agree Jamie has taken on a huge task....the system that thinks of the bottom line and kids that have no knowledge of nutrition. My hats off to Jamie and I hope he has a break through before it is too late for our kids. Report
In New Zealand, and don't own a TV so can't see the show, but I truly wish people weren't so closed and sceptical about a new message - especially one that is going to save their lives! - I think Jamie is fighting, what is almost a loosing battle, so I pray he has the strength to continue against the seemly insurmountable odds. I hope he knows he has as many supporters as enemies.

In terms of kids and their eating habits, involve them, teach them and do it from birth. They need us to nurture them and protect them from all bad things int the world - including food! If it means we have to learn and become better people for it, then so be it, I take the challenge, and anyone who won't doesn't deserve to BE a parent.

My school food, was ok so start with, when I was at junior/primary school. However it got worse as I got older and I am grateful my mother took the time to give me healthy school lunches for at least 3 days of the week. As a kid when you get to the front of the queue and a doughnut costs 50c and a banana cost double... I was doing the maths and thinking Woohoo thats TWO doughnuts for me. Removing the bad choices is a great start, it might have saved me a lot of heart break. Report
I have love Jamie since I saw the first earring of his show on food network. Ya back in the day when food network was new lol. It honestly caught my attention because of the tittle. The naked chef. While he wasn't naked but the food he mad was awesome and I have loved him ever since. I would say I have to agree with him. If we don't teach the kids new ways to eat healthy then how or we going to break the obesity habit?? Report
I live in England, and I've been following Jamie Oliver for years, ever since the first 'Naked Chef.' He comes across as sincere, hard-working, and genuinely passionate about what he does - and about healthy eating. If I had access to the show, I'd watch it, no question. And if you CAN catch up with him for an interview, that would be fantastic! Report
I have to watch this show now!!! Report
jamie is awesome, i 'm a big fan. i still remember one of the parents in the UK show, she didn't know when the water was boiling and had NEVER ate a homemade meal when she was a child at home. school menu is just a part of the problem. in my country kids don't eat at school but unfortunately the number of overweight children is rising. i don't understand why those people think they are superior to jamie , come on , the man is a legend already. it was the same in Italy , those thickheaded old people , stubborn as mules , thinking only they could cook and treating him like an idiot. Report
i live in the uk and the worst thing that happened was they stopped cookery in schools so we have a genaration that don't know how to cook a meal from scratch so its the frozen dept of supermarket for them and the kids live on crisps and crap at school,all you get is can't afford fresh food [poppy cock] you can't beat fresh food,it's just lazyness and ignorance.JO has tried to change that here and struggled at first but has proved his way is the right's just common sence after all!!!! Report
My grandson is sensitive to food additives, colorants, preservatives, etc. This hugely affects his behavior. My daughter in law did some research on child behavior and found studies relating behavior to food. She then put him on the Feingold Diet which is, basically, eating clean, healthy food with no preservatives. What a change this has made in him. It has taken him from a child the teachers wanted on medication to a child who can sit and learn. Whenever he has an "episode" in school, it can usually be linked to "contraband" food such as chewing gum or candy for rewards. I know candy is cheap compared to fruit, but look at the results. If school cafeterias went back to cooking real food as they did when I was in school, and try to get the parents on board for healthy eating, I think we would see a revolution in childhood behavior in school. You go Jamie! Report
I attended nursing school in Huntington many, many years ago so I was shocked at the obesity I saw when I watched his show. I remember walking everywhere even when I was pregnant because we didn't have a car. As a former West Virginian, I was so embarrassed by the attitudes and ignorance. I have also been dismayed by the cafeteria choices in our schools here in VA. Parents, you need to raise some concerns and follow thru on getting changes made. Your children are at stake (& so are you). Report
Jamie is a legend! Over here in the UK he has worked wonders. He isn't trying to make money out of this;i think he was just so appalled at what kids were being fed in schools and wanted to do something about it. If he can help the way people think about food,then great. It doesn't matter where in the world,as long as the message is getting across. Report
I have a co-worker from Huntington, WV and she completely supports his movement. As a school teacher and mother, I look at what our children eat and what is called nutritional. As someone who has struggled with weight all her life, I feel responsible to ensure my kids eat healthy all the time. I was happily surprised when I went to eat lunch with my daughter that she was able to grab an extra snack, KIWI! I loved that she had healthy options and she is enjoying it. Great work Jamie, you are an inspiration to all of us. Report
Any recognized effort that promotes education and practical tips/training will be helpful. Those not interested can look the other way if they so choose. Report
I hope so... we need a revolution!!! Report
He's changed school dinner nutrition beyond belief in the UK now he's out to do the same in the US. He talks a lot of common sense.
In the UK there was a famous battle outside one school he was turning around. The parents of some kids were passing hamburgers and chips through the railings.......he couldn't believe parents wanted their kids to become obese and NOT eat well and was all over the news here.
He petitioned parliament for changes in school dinners and won!
He's also started up "parent and children" cookery classes where the kids and parents learn together the basics of a good home cooked meal, made from scratch!
This can only be a positive move to spread the idea to the states and maybe beyond. Report
Love Jamie Oliver and his possitive outlook and his dedication to make change. Would love to hear more from him. Report
Our addiction to fast foods is legendary. They are the "crack cocaine" of everyday life. This was brought home to me years ago by a comment made by my baby brother. There were five children in my family;n four of us were born a year apart and then many years later (almost 20) along came the baby. When he was five he spent a week end with myself and my new husband. I cooked all my specialties - roast chicken, baked salmon, pork chops. Not all on the same night but one each night with a nice salad and lots of veg. My baby brother choked down what he could but he wasn't happy. When my mom picked him up he told her, and I quote - I like going to Judy's better she cooks better. She makes Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's Hamburgers, Pizza and Taco Bell! Who knew he was riding the fast food wave.
Jamie go for it make people understand that these are "Frankenfoods"! Report
I love the idea. It is very sad to see children so young already obese! Keep up the good work Jamie! Report
It will be interesting to see if Jamie can do anything. My spouse was on the school board of our local school and tried to raise the issue of the nutritional value of some of the menu items served to faculty and staff. He asked the head cook for nutritional information on the offerings and it took her an extensive period of time to even locate them. One of the offerings -- a large pastry had 11 grams of trans fats in it!!! And yet, it took months to convince the cook that the roll should be removed from the menu. It seems that it's a combination of laziness, closed mindedness and ignorance that it's nearly overwhelming to change the system. But I hope that it works. In the meantime, we pack our kid's lunches. Report
Jamie's problem is that Americans especially don't see the problems with their own foods. We love cheeseburgers, fries, cookies, cakes, fried anything etc. Changing tastes takes time and effort from parents, but parents are sucked into the fast food era too. Everything we do has been sped up. We have machines for everything and in turn, we can do more at once, so we do more at once, which adds stress and less time, which drives people to the fast food line. It's what we are used to. As a kid I HATED home cooked food, because I wasn't used to it. Once I moved out of my parents home, I cooked 99% of my meals from scratch trying to get healthy. The kids don't hve a choice, they eat what's around.

Further, you have to get people to want to cook healthy meals. It takes time and dedication. Granted, I think it's a labor of love that creates something amazing, only bettered by people actually enjoying it- but you have to get people to want to do it. Lunch ladies, at least in part, have to love their jobs. The kids are amazing (says a former teacher). I know it's time consuming, and even with a higher price we owe this to our children. Report
I have 5 boys who always ate school lunch ... until about 3 years ago. I went to one of my childs schools to share lunch with him and ordered a lunch for myself. It was absolutely one of the top 5 worst meals I have ever had. Not only were the options limited almost entirely fats and carbs ... it tasted so bad. I KNOW they could offer healthier options! My guys have happily taken a "home" lunch ever since. I realize that the people who make the decision as to what goes into these school lunches have to look for the best value given their limited funds but I have to believe that there are other, healthier, options and I would encourage them to find them! I think Jamie's quest is admirable and hope he comes to my town to clean up our kitchens! Report
i like the idea a lot. i think jamie has definitely brought the conversation to the table. my only complaint is that when asked what we can do to help, he asks us to sign a petition that he's going to send to the president. instead, i would like to hear advice on how to take steps to help my local school system choose healthier foods. we CAN take responsibility make changes in our own communities and we don't have to wait for lawmakers to decide what's best for us. Report
I really hope it works. I was horrified when I saw the lunch menu for the first time when my oldest started kindergarten this past year. I just got finished watching Saturday's episode and I wish he was at my daughter's school and looked in her lunch box. I always have one fruit and one veggie and 100% whole wheat bread for her sandwich. My kids love their fruits and veggies. The other day, I told my three year old that we were having salad with dinner and she jumped up and down, arms in the air, screaming, "Yaaaaaaay! Yaaaaaaay!" We used to have to save salad as dessert b/c if we put it out first, they would only eat the salad. Kids will eat healthy stuff. You just have to give it to them first. Report
I hope it works. It is pretty depressing to think that today's children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. I grew up on a farm, so fruit and vegetables were part of almost every meal when I was a kid, and I still love them today. We had plenty of fried foods and whole milk and cream too, which launched to the weight problem that I have today, but learning to love fruits and veggies has made it much easier for me to fight the fat. I love that Jamie seems to care so much--about good food and about people. I think that is what is part of his success. Report
I was lucky enough to watch this show when I went back to the states to visit my son. He was winning over even the hardest junk food convert in the episode I saw. Watching people of every age/ethnicity/economic group getting together to make stir fry was inspiring! Report
I think Jamie's mission is an awsome adventure that he is taking on. We need more people like him to help get the kids in the country to eat better....especially what is offered in our schools Report
I think that cook Alice was a little too bossy and thought no one else knew any better. She was set in her ways and out to prove it. Jamie has only good intentions and was fought all the way. Go Jamie i support you 100 % Report
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