My good friend Bob Merrick and I are both HUGE fans of British chef Jamie Oliver. We’re also supporters of his “Food Revolution”, both the show (which won a 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program) AND the movement.
The first season was filmed in Huntington, West Virginia and personally, I was moved to tears watching Jamie’s struggle to help the community change it’s eating habits, focusing mostly on school children.
My husband Peter and I don’t have kids, but we have lots of nieces and nephews, so we were stunned by the poor quality of processed, unhealthy meals being served in school cafeterias. As Jamie notes on his website:
“This food revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way you eat. It’s not just a TV show, it’s a movement for you, your family and your community. If you care about your kids and their future take this revolution and make it your own. Educate yourself about food and cooking. Find out what your child is eating at school. Make only a few small changes and magical things will happen. Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better but it will add years to your life.”
Season Two of Food Revolution is now filming in Los Angeles. The problem is, that unlike the city of Huntington, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will NOT allow Jamie Oliver to film in any of our schools. The L.A. Times reported that an LAUSD spokesman said there is no chance for a change of heart. Via email, Robert Alaniz stated that “Reality TV has a formula. You either have to have drama or create conflict to be successful. We’re not interested in either.”
Yesterday, Bob, Peter and our friend Brent were lucky enough to hear Jamie Oliver speak at his L.A. Food Revolution headquarters in Westwood. “Jamie’s Kitchen” is not only a set for season two, but also a community kitchen where folks can learn to cook healthy meals.
Cameras were rolling as parents, kids, aunts and uncles were on hand to discuss the current status of our unfortunate school lunch system. Many parents brought along samples of what their children are being fed, and most of us gasped as Jamie opened packages of processed, plastic containers of what looked like mostly junk. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos during the actual taping, but got a few shots afterwards.
Always passionate about educating (in a fun way), Jamie even brought in a live cow and local butchers to explain how the cheapest (throwaway) scraps of beef are being processed into our food system. Don’t worry, he didn’t butcher the live cow (we were worried for a minute!), but instead used the cow as sort of a chalk board to demonstrate the cost of meat.
As the butchers broke down large slabs of meat in front of us, Jamie gave us a demonstration of how some beef processing companies make more money by soaking beef scraps in ammonia. This is so the meat would be safe from E. coli and salmonella contamination. These scraps were previously only sold for pet food or cooking oil, but we also get to enjoy it mixed into our burgers. I know… GROSS. Read more about this issue below.
I remember watching the first few episodes of Food Revolution season one and thinking, “wow, I feel bad for these kids in West Virginia. What a shame that they have to grow up eating such crap.” My super-healthy, big sister Janet has always packed her kids lunches, so I rarely heard my niece and nephews complain about their cafeteria fare. When the twins (now 15) were little, my sister would give them fruit-juice sweetened bran muffins instead of cookies. I always felt BAD for them and would treat them to extra ice cream (naughty Aunt Jo) when they stayed overnight. I realize how lucky my family is now, that they didn’t have to rely on public school lunches for nutrition.
Yesterday was a revelation for me. The school lunch problem isn’t just in small towns or on a reality show. It’s HERE LOS ANGELES, and we’ve got this amazing champion ready and willing to take on the challenge in a big way. Jamie Oliver won’t be able to fix it all of course, but he’s got a voice… a great big, passionate (Emmy-winning) voice to lead the way.
How can we help RIGHT NOW? By emailing the LAUSD board members directly.
At the end of our meeting yesterday, Jamie handed out letters and email addresses of each of the seven board members. I’ve copied the letter below so you can help with the campaign yourself.
Let’s do this Los Angeles!!!
Jamie Oliver’s Open Letter:
Thank you for coming today. I need your support. Please write to the LAUSD board members (addresses below) to grant me access into the schools to see the food being fed to your children. Please try to do this in the next 24 hours. I’m never going to get this done without you.
Please CC: JamiesKitchenLA@Live.com on these emails so I can track the great work you are doing. Please make the subject of your email “Let Jamie Oliver into LAUSD”. Please pass this on to your friends and family and show your support on our Facebook page – “Food Revolution Los Angeles”. Your effort with make a difference.”
Board Member Contacts:
Disctrict 1: Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte
District 2: Monica Garcia
District 3: Tamar Galatzan
Disctrict 4: Steve Zimmer
District 5: Yoli Flores
District 6: Nury Martinez
District 7: Dr. Richard Vladovic
Here is what I wrote in my email to EACH board member:
Please give Jamie Oliver access to our LAUSD schools. Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” is NOT just a television show. He truly cares about the health of our children, and the public has a right to see the state of nutrition in our public schools.
Thank you for your time.
Remember to cc: JamiesKitchenLA@Live.com
and make the subject of your email “Let Jamie Oliver into LAUSD”
If you don’t know what district your kids are in, check here
News about Food Revolution L.A. (L.A. Weekly)
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Rejected By LAUSD (Grub Street L.A.)
Would you soak your beef in ammonia? (New England Health Advisory via New York Times)