I think it’s safe to say that I was a super fan of the first season of Jamie’s Food Revolution. I watched every episode of the show, and I watched a few of them twice – once with my husband the night they aired and again the next day with my then five-year-old. I made up a bunch of printable “I Tried Something New” stickers for my kids and I even had a lunch date with my son so I could see first-hand what his school lunch looked like.
I was pretty excited for the second season of the show, but my enthusiasm soon turned to boredom and irritation as the episodes rolled out. Blocked from entering any cafeteria in the LAUSD by the school board, it felt like Jamie Oliver sat around complaining about his predicament for most of the season. Despite having a massive stage and an audience that most public health educators would kill for, the show chose to spend its air time vilifying the superintendent of the LA schools rather than being inventive and using the platform for real change.
There were bright spots — I always enjoy watching Jamie Oliver interact with kids – but overall I would have preferred that the show focus on positive changes students and their families can make in their homes and communities.
So without further ado, here are five things I wish Jamie Oliver had concentrated on in season two of Jamie’s Food Revolution – no school cafeteria required:
1. Demonstrate how families can make changes at home.
In one of the better episodes of the season, Jamie showed that a family could prepare a healthful meal in less time than it takes to run out for fast food, but I was frustrated that he didn’t show how the kids cooked the meal. Jamie Oliver is an excellent teacher and he excels at demonstrating easy dishes that don’t require a recipe. It would have been great if he’d taken a few minutes per episode to show his audience how to make some quick and easy dinners or given them some tips for making easy changes to their diets.
2. Give the public tools to fight for a better school lunch program.
There were many times in the program where Jamie stressed that school lunch reform won’t happen unless parents and students get involved and raise their voices in protest. I whole-heartedly agree with that notion, but I think many parents don’t know how to start advocating for change. Should you speak to your school’s principal? The PTA? Send a letter to the school board? I would have loved it if Jamie had outlined some of the basic steps a parent can take to make changes in their children’s cafeterias.
3. Explain how school lunches ended up in their current state.
I doubt that many Americans understand exactly what’s behind the current state of school lunch. The program could give an overview of the history of school lunch in the U.S., spell out the regulations surrounding school meals and get a little bit into the politics of how foods get the green light for inclusion in school meals.
4. Address the money issue.
Jamie is quick to brush people off when they say that money is a barrier. He often makes comments like, “Yes, it costs a little bit more, but can’t we do better?” Yes, we probably can, but for many school districts the money is a deal breaker when it comes to overhauling the school lunch program. He needs to acknowledge that this is a real concern and show school districts how they can work within their lean budgets to improve meal for our kids.
5. Fight the Federal Government and the USDA.
If I’m making up a wish list, I may as well shoot for the moon – send Jamie to Washington D.C. and have him agitate where the laws and regulations are made. I think to improve school lunches in the U.S. we need to make change happen from the top down as well as through grassroots efforts. Jamie could visit the USDA and speak with the congressmen and senators who can make real changes.
Did you watch Jamie’s Food Revolution? What did you think of it?