Food Revolution or Organic Revolution? Or both?

This past Friday night I watched Jamie Oliver (formerly the Naked Chef) in the two-hour premier of his new prime-time TV show, called Food Revolution. It was a shocking show to watch—and a good look into the problems we face as a country…or better yet, as humanity.

The show is based around the fattest town in the world, Henderson, West Virginia, and Jamie’s attempt to help the townspeople learn how to eat right, one school at a time. What’s shocking isn’t just the awfulness of the food that people eat, and serve to children, but their smugness that they don’t need to change (and that there’s nothing wrong with what they are doing), as well as the crazy USDA bureaucracy that makes it hard for people to change their diets.

Our whole family watched the show together. One daughter wondered why Jamie wasn’t starting with simply better, organic versions of the food that people love. Another felt lucky that her private school’s food was much better (but we pay for it). My future son-in-law, who is British, confirmed that school food and the smug, belligerent attitudes, are the same in the UK (although, according to him, the Brits are still superior in every way). I kept thinking about the well-endowed public school kitchens that aren’t used for cooking, but just for heating up crappy chemical food for our kids.

Jamie Oliver didn’t mention organic at all, which is fine, since he’s got a bigger barrier to get through—just getting these people to eat real food in the first place. But I think the two things are connected: Somehow, out of laziness and the desire for convenience, we’ve allowed all the real food to be substituted with fake food made from cheap, factory-grown by-products. And yet, we have been conditioned to want, want, want that deep-fried, coated, crispy, salty, crunchy, fatty whatever that only feeds a primordial desire implanted in our brains, but in fact destroys our bodies and, obviously, our ability to think clearly.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the show progresses. I know my family will keep watching it. I hope it works. Because what we really, really need most of all is an Organic Food Revolution. Not just for our bodies. Not just for our planet. But for our minds and souls, too.

Jamie, we are rooting for you!

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23 Responses to Food Revolution or Organic Revolution? Or both?

  1. Donna in Delaware April 2, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    Oh no, I missed it! I really wanted to watch that show and I’ll make sure that I catch the others. It’s hard to tell or inform people who have been eating and living a certain way for many years, that this is the wrong way of doing things. They won’t understand that. Most of the people in this area of West Virginia, I believe, are poor, and this is probably all that they have had for years, and one generation passes it on to the next. You cannot just appear out of nowhere and say that it’s wrong to eat this and to eat this way, and expect them to roll over and change on command and demand.

    Since I didn’t see the show, and reading what you wrote Maria, I think that Jamie is doing the right thing just trying to inform them of the way that they are eating, and what they are eating and trying to get them to slowly change. People who, thinking that they are right and don’t know any better will always rebel at the idea or fact that some stranger(much less a foreigner),who comes to their town or city is trying to change a entrenched part of their lifestyle, most of us too, will do the same. You cannot impart too much information too soon. Let them wrap their brain around the simple merits of eating a better quality of food first and move on from there.

    I’m wishing Jamie much success with this venture. It’s going to be interesting to see if he can change the food choices, preparation and eating mindset of these people. His battles have just begun. Whether he can win the war is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

  2. Laura B. April 2, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    it seems that food is an “entitlement” to people…? That their health is actually the doctor’s problem, not their responsibility.

    Food has been marketed for years as “fun”, as entertainment, convenient, “quick & easy” rather than nourishment.

    The “brainwashing” of the masses will take decades to undo…IF BIG FOOD/Agriculture allows it!

  3. Laura April 2, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    That show shocked me – the USDA guidelines and budget for the schools, and the food that the one family was eating. A whole freezer full of crappy frozen food.
    (the show is available on for the duration of its season.)

  4. Stacey April 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    A revolution in conciousness – if we get that, were moving in the right direction!

    When you looked at that families food piled on their table the sheer lack of color/ variety. Even thoes of us who grow our own food, eat organics and are thoughtful in what we do…what happens when we stack the food we actually eat in a week on our tables? How many of the very same ingreadients are repeated over and over? Are we really doing the best we could? I wonder.

    Go Jamie go!

  5. Meg Massey April 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    I missed it! I meant to watch it and forgot that it was on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Ro Elgas April 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    I missed it too. Thanks for the overview, it sounds painful yet interesting.

    It is wacky. When the kids out here in Californian grow great organic fruits and vegies in their school gardens the cafeterias are not allowed to serve the real food for the kids.
    In one neighborhood I know they sell the bounty to a local restaurant. Which is great but the restaurant is not geared for kids and not in every families budget. Yes, there needs to be a change.

  7. Amanda April 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    The really sad part is that not only did Jamie get resistance from the townspeople, but I’ve heard grumpy grumblings from the folks within the good food movement about what he was trying to do. This is hardly the place or time to get territorial. The more attention that can be pointed at the problem (and the solutions), the better. Thanks for giving kuddos where kuddos are due, Maria.

    Oh, and I think the town was Huntington, VA.

  8. Gill April 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    The name of the city in the program is Huntington, West Virginia.

    Your comments are meaningful and I enjoy your postings, it is also important to be accurate with details.

  9. Becca April 2, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    You can find all the episodes on ABC’s website. I wondered the same thing, the very first episode he made a dish with white pasta. I wondered, if you are going to make pasta, why not teach them right to do it with wheat pasta? But, I agree…get them to eat real food first before even trying to tackle why they should pay even more money for organic food. 🙁

  10. Becca April 3, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    You can find all the episodes on ABC’s website. I wondered the same thing, the very first episode he made a dish with white pasta. I wondered, if you are going to make pasta, why not teach them right to do it with wheat pasta? But, I agree…get them to eat real food first before even trying to tackle why they should pay even more money for organic food. 🙁
    BTW I love your blog!

  11. Bill George April 3, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    I’m going to go over and watch this at ABC. Thought it might be useful to recollect great school meals of the past. I remember, in Switzerland, where I went to school for a few years, the vegetable soup–fresh locally grown vegetables. But most of all, the doughnuts the students made on the school grounds (as part of their well-rounded education!), jelly filled, and still warm. They sold them on the playground to make money for school projects. Perhaps not so politically correct, but absolutely real food.

  12. Stacey April 3, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Amazing Bill how jelly filled doughnuts are not PC. Seems like a wonderful thing to enjoy – evoke passion and delight. Now we’re not talking about eating 25 of them…but the very idea that something made with care, attention and love is not PC is a sad comment on where we are finding ourselves these days.

  13. Bill George April 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Amen to that, Stacey. In all movements, even those in the “right direction”, there’s the orthodox and the liberal, the moderate and the backsliders…many other labels possible too, I’m sure. I consumed the first episode of the show, now, and am quite moved by Jamie’s commitment and risk, the danger of the politics in which he’s engaged. Food is intimate, personal–perhaps nothing is more personal to us than sex. So, he’s entered the bee’s nest and has stirred up the danger of being misunderstood–dealing with the emotional and psychological projections of the people of Huntington on a stranger’s presence and request that they “change their behavior”–that there’s something wrong with it. Dangerous indeed. I learned a lot from that first episode, and not just about food. Much thanks to Maria for bringing it to my attention and of course to Jamie for having the courage to take it on.

  14. Helene April 3, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    I could not have said it better myself. Let’s hope he’s able to make some inroads and help people see what REAL food is and how much better it tastes – I can’t imagine once you know what real food is that you’d be ok with chemicals or gmo’s in there Go Jamie !!!!

  15. Liz April 4, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Stacey’s words should be turned into a dumper sticker!
    We need a revolution of organic consciousness period ! Jamie’s sincere passion to revolutionize caffeterias nationwide is inspired by his own upbringing . I hope Jamie’s mission will have enough consistant positive media exposure to engage the parents ! A plan of re-programing eating habits and lifestyle priorities begin at home. If children were engaged at home or school in the process and cycle of organic raw foods gardening ,feeding chickens, washing eggs or picking fruits they would respect and enjoy taste of fresh organic foods and turn against processed foods. I know from experience my daughter was raised summers on farm had chores and attended school where only organic meals were served in a respectful manner to teach importance of meals. Kids are smart they will feel better and not want to eat poorly if given a choice after they are off the processed food but going through the drive thru is easier. Best of luck Jamie!!

  16. Liz April 4, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    oooops! I wrote “dumper” sticker didnt proof should say BUMPER

  17. Lehigh Valley Transplant April 5, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    I was shocked to see on the show that the USDA considers a french fry a vegetable, and that so few children could even recognize whole vegetables: they thought a potato was a tomato, and were dumbfounded when they were asked to identify an eggplant.

  18. Donna in Delaware April 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    I caught the episodes on the web. Even the high school kids are a piece of work. Yes, it always amazes me how so much red-tape can keep something so meaningful and much needed from happening. The guidelines of the gov’t for nutrition in the school system there, and maybe everywhere, are atrocious. I worked in a special ed school in the late ’80’s in Westchester,N.Y., where I help to start a garden club for the children in the lower grades. We made, with their help, raised beds and fenced them in. We had the children plant not only flowers, but all types of veggies and herbs. They loved what they were learning to do and eat. Most of them never eperienced this before and when the veggies were large enough to harvest, we would go into the kitchen, and find the right ways to cook and prepare dishes made of the vegetables grown on the grounds and we would take the food back to our classrooms and have it for lunch or snack during class breaks. The children loved to grow, harvest and eat what they grew. They even took some things to their respective cottages on campus, and had their house mothers prepare it for dinner. They couldn’t wait for the next growing season. Pretty soon, we had so many children interested in the garden club, we had to rotate them, taking turns, so that they all could get a chance to experience the thrill of gardening. Nothing could have been better, they ate seasonally
    and enjoyed every minute. Some volunteered to keep an eye on things over the weekend and to give the plants water when necessary.

  19. Donna in Delaware April 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Pardon my errors.

  20. ALM April 9, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    Great post. BUT HERE’S MY PROBLEM: “Somehow, out of laziness and the desire for convenience, we’ve allowed all the real food to be substituted with fake food made from cheap, factory-grown by-products…” I was raised in a household where both parents worked. They were raised in households that weren’t educated or concerned about proper nutrition. So here I am, a full-time member of the work force, wife, and mother of two young ones, trying to undo all those years of learning “convenience” from everyone around me and that’s not easy. From my perspective, the probelm is not “laziness” – it’s societal norms, including the 40-hour work week and its associated wardrobe, stress, and commute that changes it from a “desire for convenience” to mandatory convenience. I’ve figured it out for me now: a local, mostly organic, co-op that delivers, a pre-morning routine that involves dinner prep, lunch hours at work devoted to recipe-finding-meal-planning, evenings of meal-centered family time and clean-up, and weekend routines that include baking, etc. But it has taken me YEARS to get this far. I think they eat that crappy food because they can shop for it quickly and cheaply, and prepare it quickly, so they can have time to de-stress in the evening before they do it again the next day…

  21. Leota April 13, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    I also missed this program. What amazes me is I grow a large garden every year and one of my daughters only eats the tomatoes from the garden. She has 3 kids who are being raised on chemical laced, pre-packaged, fast food. All are overweight, sluggish and non- athletic. I know I raised her differently, but, once grown-up, many people will revert to “fast” over fresh simply because it is “more convenient”.

  22. Annette Halsted April 29, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    I was personally shocked !!!!!!. As an organic vegetarian healthy nurse I have always promoted a healthy lifestyle for myself and my children. I am not perfect but I try. I look at my children with pride as they are fit vibrant, clear skin and know their vegetables!!!. I attended a nursing conference on poverty and personal health in the workplace, at this conference I learnt the average nurse is a size 3x .As I looked around the room most nurses attending were over 275 pounds, smoked and drank coffee all day long . I was shocked at the type of food served and the amount.I am pleased to say I returned to my unit and suggested we as a team loose a ton, exercise and eat healthier they laughed at me.Basically, how can we care for others when we do not care for ourselves.? Three years later the other unites have joined in and had a team run in 10km.These nurses children are also becoming healthier. It can be done but not over night.

  23. Keys June 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    Never would have thunk I would find this so idnsiepnsable.

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