Chef Jaime Oliver is at it again, this time in Los Angeles. And he’s having even more trouble than he did with a couple of disgruntled lunch ladies in Huntington, Virginia. The new season of Oliver’s Food Revolution is now airing. Oliver is once again bringing his message of good food being easy and affordable to the opposite coast. And he’s finding the going very tough.
On the “good news” side, the national newspaper USA Today reports that more school districts are serving healthier food. And many of these schools are finding they can do it just as well as they did with all those processed foods. They are also finding that kids will eat healthier food if it tastes good.
Congress and the USDA are writing new rules for school lunches. While they won’t acknowledge that old rules are part of the problem, they appear to be taking the problem of childhood obesity seriously. However, the agencies are facing fierce lobbying from food industry insiders. According to the newspaper:
“Now, USDA is writing the program’s new rules, and interests on all sides are pushing their agendas, some attempting to undo what Congress intended. For example, the National Potato Council wants — surprise! — more potatoes in school meals, while the proposed rules call for far less. The School Nutrition Association, which represents school food directors, argues that the districts can’t meet some of the new standards without more money and more time. This ignores the fact that there is no more money, and delay is the enemy when it comes to childhood nutrition.”
Many school districts appear to be held back from providing better meals for kids by outdated thinking, old purchasing rules and plain old laziness. If some schools can do it, why can’t more? This is especially important in poorer communities where many children depend on the schools for a daily hot, nutritious meal.
That brings us back to Oliver and his new front in the Food Revolution. While I am sure the producers of the program are enjoying the conflict between the chef and the Los Angeles school board, it raises some interesting questions. First, why is the school board so dead set against allowing Oliver to try as he did in Huntington? Do they have something to hide? Do they doubt Oliver’s sincerity despite the ample proof both here and in Britain that he really wants to make thing better? Why have so few parents in Los Angeles supported Oliver? Is Los Angeles just too big to make those kinds of changes or engender the same level of involvement as the people of Virginia?
I will be interested to see Oliver’s progress in the coming weeks of the Food Revolution. Will you be watching? If not, why not? Comments are welcome.