Food Revolution L.A.

Update: Photos of a Food Revolution event in Santa Monica (2/12/11) added to my Flickr folder.

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.

Food Revolution L.A.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.”

Food Revolution L.A.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.

Food Revolution L.A.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: 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.”

Big Love,
Jamie Oliver

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.
Jo Stougaard

Remember to cc:
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

Food Revolution L.A.Follow Jamie Oliver on Twitter

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution L.A. FaceBook

Jamie Oliver’s website

News about Food Revolution L.A. (L.A. Weekly)

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Rejected By LAUSD (Grub Street L.A.)

TV chef Jamie Oliver shut out of L.A. school cafeterias (L.A. Times)

Would you soak your beef in ammonia? (New England Health Advisory via New York Times)

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) website

My friend Bob’s website

Just for fun: For my nephew’s high school graduation (2007), we flew to London to eat at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen

All my Food Revolution L.A. photos on flickr

Watch a clip from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Season 1

Sign the Food Revolution Petition

with Chef Jamie Oliver



Filed under Food Events (festivals, classes, etc.)

9 responses to “Food Revolution L.A.

  1. Rebekah

    I have found the address for Jamie’s Kitchen, but what days and hours is it open?

  2. Thank you for this – I wasn’t able to attend but I will write emails today to all the board members. Like you, I do not have kids in LAUSD but I do care about the future of the children in LA and everywhere. I am sharing your blog on my facebook page ( and hope that it will inspire others to take action! Thanks for such a great blog entry!!

  3. I’m glad there are folks out there working hard for this kind of change. Especially on behalf of underprivileged families who are too busy working to make the changes themselves.

  4. As the chef/consultants (Sustainable Food Systems, LLC) who were the force working behind Jamie in Huntington, WV last year, I can honestly say I am not surprised by LAUSD’s reaction. We also know Jamie’s approach is sincere but maybe a bit loud. Unfortunately, those that need to hear it most, often turn a deaf ear to him (and the issues at hand).
    We work with a lot of school food services across the country and these folks are all working hard with very limited resources. Because they have been the targets of criticism and have become defensive and allusive to change. We need to empathize and support these school food leaders in the challenges they face, and provide guidance and direction in how they can successfully change.
    We did it in West Virginia. We can do it anywhere. Please open up LSUSD and let yourselves be champions of change!
    John Turenne – President
    Sustainable Food Systems, LLC
    (The Reality behind the Reality Show – Food Revolution)

  5. E-mail sent! Thanks for detailing exactly what is going on — I didn’t know it was as bad as it is. He’s doing a great thing and has my full support.

  6. Pingback: Planet Baub » Blog Archive » Being interviewed for @Jamie_Oliver’s Food Revolution! We CAN make a difference!

  7. I also love Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show as well as the original School Dinners that was filmed in the UK. Way to go for supporting him!

  8. Jo, good rundown of what the school lunch programs are facing. Sounds like an interesting discussion in Westwood. Hopefully Jamie Oliver’s granted access to the LAUSD programs so Angelenos can better understand what L.A. kids are consuming.

  9. There is a really good essay about Jamie Oliver’s efforts in this month’s issue of Esquire, and it made a really good point. There’s no doubting Jamie’s approach is heartfelt, and that he’s doing everything that he can to affect change. I, for one, honor what he’s trying to do. Our nation’s children eat poorly, and the problem starts at home.

    What the essay points out (and quite well) is that our nation eats this way because it always has. Old habits die hard. We eat like we’ve always eaten, because our nation was founded on hard work. When you’re finished with a 12-hour shift at the steel plant, you can come home and eat all the fried chicken and waffles you want. The problem is that we’re no longer working like this. The plants are closed, and we’re happy to have desk jobs while most of the real labor is outsourced to other countries, or low-wage immigrant workers.

    The end result? A fat America. And while we continue to tune into NBC’s cash cow “The Biggest Loser,” the real answer to our problem lies over at CBS, where “Undercover Boss” shows us just how hard work is done. And, as the essay points out, only until we start to see Americans getting back to work will we even be remotely close to seeing a true Food Revolution in our country.

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