Last night Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Sneak Peek premiered on ABC. Jamie Oliver who is well known as The Naked Chef is a British chef and TV personality. He has traveled to Huntington, WV which is known as America’s unhealthiest city in America. Jamie’s mission is to try to teach people to eat more balanced meals and cook with fresh ingredients.
The show starts off with Jamie doing a radio interview with local radio personality Rod Willis from 93.7FM The DAWG. Rod is completely rude to Jamie telling Jamie that wouldn’t be able to change anything, and “we don’t want to sit around and eat lettuce all day.”
Then Jamie goes to Central City Elementary to review Cabell County’s lunch program. His first day there, they are serving pizza, yes pizza for breakfast. My wife is a teacher at another Cabell County school and she said that this is done often. For lunch that day they serve chicken nuggets. There are 5 ladies that work in the kitchen in this school. Alice is the most outspoken of the 5. Right from the start, Jamie upsets Millie by calling her a “lunch lady.”
The cooks then tell Jamie they are having mash potatoes for lunch, so Jamie says “we better start peeling potatoes then.” He was very shocked to see they used instant potatoes. Jamie then goes in the freezer and is appalled that there is so much processed food with so many unknown ingredients in them. He compliments the kitchen and the cooks, but is shocked by the food they are serving.
Jamie watches the students eat. They are eating the food that is bad for them, and throwing away the food that is good for them (like apples for example.) Jamie also notices that the school has strawberry and chocolate milk as well as white. Most of the students have flavored milk instead of white.
None of the cooks are happy that Jamie is there. They all say that there is nothing wrong with the menu and food they are serving the children. These ladies are very argumentative and do not like change. They also state it would be impossible for them to prepare fresh food for 450 students daily. I am wondering how this school was selected for this? Did the producer go to the Cabell County Board of Education and say “give us the school that would be most hesitant to change” to make good television? If this is not the case, you would think that Cabell County would volunteer a school that would be most acceptable to change to try to make this work, unless of course they don’t want this to succeed which I wouldn’t doubt either.
Jamie then goes to a The First Baptist Church, a local church in Huntington where the pastor Steve Willis is talking to his congregation about the importance of eating right and being healthy. At the end of the service, the pastor and Jamie goes to his office. Pastor Steve tells Jamie that he supports him in his fight. He then pulls out the church directory and starts going through all the pages showing Jamie who has died which a better diet may have prevented their deaths. Jamie is glad to see that at least there is someone in Huntington that cares and have something in common.
Pastor Steve introduces Jamie to a local family that could really use his help on changing their eating habits. The moms name is Stacie. She has 3 boys and 1 girl. Most of the family is overweight. Her husband is a truck driver and is on the road 2-3 weeks at a time. Jamie had all of their receipts from last week and from the receipts Jamie has listed all the food they ate last week. Jamie then cooks that week’s worth of food and piles it together for the family to realize how much food that really is. The mom opens the freezer door and it is stacked with frozen pizzas. There are at least 2 dozen there. Most of the food is prepared in a deep fryer.
Jamie takes their deep fryer, and after Jamie has the mom say a prayer, buries it in the back yard. He talks to the mom, explaining to her that she is making her children’s life shorter feeding them this way. She becomes very emotional and wants to change. At least Jamie did find someone that is open to change unlike the school cooks and principal. The children are open to change as well and welcome it. The 12 year old, Justin gets picked on at school because of his size, and wants to become healthy. He also wants to be a chef. Jamie forms a bond with Justin. Jamie then goes and buys healthy and fresh food. He has the aspiring chef Justin help him prepare it. They prepare a pasta dish and a salad. He gives the family recipes and menus to use for the rest of week and will come back to follow up.
Jamie then visits the location they are building “Jamie’s Kitchen.” Jamie’s Kitchen is a school to teach people how to cook healthier food.
While there, Jamie meets with Rhonda, the lady in charge of the food program in the Cabell County schools which consists of 26 schools. Jamie has a whiteboard and draws a picture of a smiley face which in his words represents “little kids” and a picture food which he refers to “a lovely plate full of fresh food” and her how he can get the food into the little kid’s mouths, and draws an arrow. Rhonda then pulls out several books including the USDA Recipe Cards.
The USDA is who sets the rules and guidelines US schools have to follow. She tells him he has 1 week to make these changes. The students have to like the food; he has to keep it in the schools budget, and has to meet the nutritional code. If he cannot show them that he can accomplish this in a week, the schools will revert back to what they were doing.
The following day Jamie and the school cooks have a contest. The school cooks prepare pizza for lunch (yesterday’s breakfast) and Jamie prepares fresh chicken with salad and brown rice. The principal comes in and looks at Jamie’s menu. He states that Jamie needs to have 2 breads per the Cabell County Food Code. His brown rice only counts as one. Jamie asks the cooks what they are using for their second bread and they said the pizza crust and the pizza counts as 2 breads because of the crust. Jamie disagrees with this. He also disagrees about the 2 breads. “Giving kids bread and rice is just going to make them fat.” At lunch time, the students have their choice of pizza or chicken. Most of the students pick the pizza. Alice was laughing and smirking. But Jamie vows not to give up!
The next morning, The Herald Dispatch which is Huntington’s main newspaper then posts an article stating that Jamie said several rude things about Huntington, WV and his motives on coming to this city. Jamie is quite upset about this article. Jamie shows up at Central City Elementary the next morning, and the school cooks and principal have the article and start giving him the 3rd degree. Jamie swears to god on his life and his children’s life that a lot of that is taken out of context and he apologizes (even though I don’t think he needed to.) Then out of the blue, a local TV station (WSAZ, an affiliate of NBC) shows up to interview him about the article.
At the end of the show, Jamie is outside on the playground in tears, upset because people are judging him and being so negative towards him. As the credits start to come on the screen, 3 little girls do a Jamie Oliver cheer and he walks off with a smile on his face.
Final thoughts on this episode and the whole idea of Jamie Oliver doing this in my home town: As mentioned earlier I very hesitant about the whole thing. After watching the sneak peek episode of the series though, I am glad that Jamie Oliver is here trying to help us (Huntington) out. West Virginia in general is often portrayed of being nothing but hicks – barefooted with no teeth. This episode did not make me feel embarrassed of what they showed, but I was very disappointed in people’s ability to adapt to change. I am hoping that this series is a success story by the end of the season. In some of the other schools, their cooks were proud of the way the cooks behaved. But today, shockingly enough for lunch was homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, homemade cornbread, peaches, and yogurt. Maybe we do have a chance after all, only time will tell.