Food and nutrition campaigning
Jamie goes to Harvard
Celebrity chef as food and nutrition revolutionary: Essex boy, likely lad and multimedia star Jamie Oliver is putting a bomb under the established orders
Our news team reports. Jamie Oliver 'has been and continues to be tremendously influential in the battle against childhood obesity, which is of critical importance to the world's present and future health' said Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, on awarding the British celebrity chef Harvard's Healthy Cup in May.
Association founder member Walter Willett, chair of the departments of epidemiology and nutrition, praised Jamie Oliver's 'extraordinarily wide-ranging efforts to combat childhood obesity, through your television programs, your foundation, and Food Revolution Day, and your focus on making healthier food available to children in schools and at home'. He went on: 'The importance of fighting this epidemic, especially among children, cannot be overstated. We are already seeing parts of the American population where life expectancy is declining'. Writing in July, Walter states: 'Jamie Oliver has been at the front lines in the effort to replace highly processed industrial foods in schools with healthy alternatives; he has shown it is possible'.
In his response at the Harvard celebration, Jamie Oliver emphasised the power that modern communications technology and social networking can have in transmitting awareness about nutrition and in empowering individuals to promote change. He also spoke of the need to teach children and families how to grow their own food, cook from scratch, avoid processed food, and better understand where food comes from and what's in it. He called for schools to teach food education and life skills. He said that a public educated about food and armed with healthy recipes can achieve more than governments have yet done to improve the world's food.
'What's very special about Jamie Oliver' says Association publications secretary Geoffrey Cannon 'is that he bridges the divide between food as cuisine and food as an enhancement of health and life. He is teaching people who work in nutrition two vital lessons. If we really want to be effective, we have to be prepared to act as citizens, go public, and speak out; and we also have to be committed to food and meals that are delicious as well as healthy. Good gastronomy is or should be also good nutrition. Congratulations to the Harvard School of Public Health'.
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
This is what Jamie Oliver says. According to the World Health Organization, global obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and more than tripled in children. Across the world more than 1.5 billion adults are overweight and of those 200 million men and 300 million women are obese. We are in big trouble.
Despite these grim statistics, and general shouting about the problem across the world, no one -- not government, schools or doctors -- has worked out a plan to give our children the tools to live longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives. Our kids are the first generation predicted to live shorter lives than their parents. As a father this is unacceptable to me -- and should be unacceptable to you.
The Food Revolution… is about empowering people through education or, frankly, just inspiring people to be more street-wise about food, where it comes from and how it affects their bodies. If you know how to cook you can save yourself money, feel better and live longer, and the chances are, your kids will follow suit. After all, we all kind of become our parents in the end.
I started learning about food at the age of 5 in the kitchen at my Dad's pub. It was 1980, and about 1 in every 15 people in the UK was obese. Just 30 years later, and it's almost 1 in every 4 people. It's the same story throughout the world and, in some places, even worse. The truth is that our priorities have completely changed during that time. That's okay -- with progress they change every 50 years or so anyway -- but we have lost touch with real food and the time has come to re-adjust.
Everyone paying taxes, whether they're a parent yet or not, should feel confident that when they send their children to school they will be fed right, educated about food and taught the skills they need to set them up for life.
Many people in the last three generations weren't taught to cook at home or at school, and that has certainly contributed to the crisis. For 10 years I've seen the positive impact that learning about food can have on our communities, our lives, our happiness, health and self-confidence, so why aren't the governments or schools mandating food education?
The Jamie Oliver story
Jamie Oliver may currently be the most wealthy celebrity chef in the world, with businesses reckoned by The Sunday Times in April this year to be worth around $US 250 million. Chefs and cooks have become celebrities notably in the UK, where especially since the 1980s food preparation and cooking has become the topic of prime-time television series. In the last decade or so, the most entrepreneurial celebrity chefs have been presented as authors of beautiful cookery books, have given their names to fancy restaurants and lower-price chains including at airports, have become the 'face' of leading supermarket advertising and marketing, and have fronted successive television series whose themes amplify their media personalities.
In the UK, of these currently two of the most successful are Heston Blumenthal (left, below), who applies food science and technology to the cookery of extremely expensive meals, and Gordon Ramsay (right, below), whose meals at his trademarked main restaurants are also very pricey at $US 150 a person and upwards. The focus of both of them is the gaining of Michelin stars and wealthy customers.
Leading UK celebrity chefs: space-age Heston Blumenthal (left) and self-
styled new brutalist Gordon Ramsay (right). Neither features good nutrition
Jamie Oliver is positioned differently, as accessible and friendly – a cheeky chappie from Essex, bought up in a pub, street-wise, and a young man of the people. In 2005, already famous as a result of his television series 'The Naked Chef', a number one best-selling cookery book, and a multi-million deal fronting for the supermarket chain Sainsbury's, he broke new ground with 'Jamie's School Dinners', a four-part series on the innovative commercial Channel 4. This exposed the fact that in Britain, school meals have been outsourced and cheapened, are of very low quality, and specifically are unhealthy – highly processed, usually pre-prepared, and fatty, sugary, salty, and stuffed with additives. The series proposed a return to proper nutrition standards for school meals, which implied the re-employment of staff who had been laid off, to be once again directly responsible for specially cooked meals.
Jamie Oliver the cheeky chappie political celebrity chef, who challenges politicians, and speaks for the right of children to delicious healthy meals
A feature of the series was Jamie Oliver showing that delicious and nourishing proper meals for children could also be sourced economically – but would involve a much higher investment in children's health. The programme made the nutrition of children a political issue. The Jamie Oliver 'Feed Me Better' campaign made the following demands.
- Guarantee that children receive a proper, nutritionally balanced meal.
- Introduce nutritional standards and ban junk food from school meals.
- Invest in dinner ladies: give them better kitchens, ore hours and loads of support and training to get them cooking again.
- Teach kids about food and get cookery back on the curriculum.
- Commit long-term funding to improve school meals
This was in the form of a 2005 petition signed by over 270,000 people, delivered to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, who promised support. Ever since then Jamie Oliver has been campaigning for nourishing food, supplied especially to children, now not only in the UK but also the US and worldwide.
Jamie's impact on school nutrition
Do Jamie's school dinners work? It seems so. This comes from a Guardian report (1). Today an audience of prestigious economists was told that the healthier school dinners introduced by the celebrity chef had not only significantly improved pupils' test results, but also cut the number of days they were off sick...
The proportion of 11-year-olds in Greenwich, south London, who did well in English and science rose after Oliver swept 'turkey twizzlers' and chicken dinosaurs off canteen menus in favour of creamy coconut fish and Mexican bean wraps, according to a study of results in the south east London borough.
The number of 'authorised absences' — which are generally due to illness – fell by 15% in the wake of his 2004 'Feed Me Better' campaign, brought into the nation's sitting rooms via the Channel 4 series 'Jamie's School Dinners'. The researchers estimated that the proportion of students who got level 4 in English at key stage 2 increased by 4.5 percentage points after his intervention. The percentage who got level 5 in science was up 6 percentage points, they reported.
Oliver described the research results as 'fantastic'. 'It's the first time a proper study has been done into the positive effects of the campaign and it strongly suggests we were right all along' he said. 'Even while doing the programme, we could see the benefits to children's health and teachers. We could see that asthmatic kids weren't having to use the school inhalers so often, for example. We could see that it made them calmer and therefore able to learn'.
The chef said it was further evidence that faster movement was needed towards improving take-up of nutritious, home-cooked school meals across the country, by training dinner ladies, getting kitchens and dining halls up to scratch and educating children and parents…
Michèle Belot, of Oxford University's Nuffield College, and Jonathan James from the University of Essex, monitored results and absences in five neighbouring local authorities – chosen for their socio-economic similarities to Greenwich — as a control. They looked at figures from 2002 to 2007 – skipping the school year 2004/5, when the new menus were introduced.
The effects seen, they said, were particularly impressive given that they emerged within a relatively short period of time, and that the campaign was not even directly targeted at improving educational outcomes.
'As indicated by the relative fall in absenteeism, it is likely that children's health improved as well, which could have long-lasting consequences for the children involved not only through improvement in educational achievements, but also in terms of their life expectancy, quality of life and productive capacity on the labour market', the study said.
A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers presented at its conference in Manchester today found that almost seven in 10 union members thought all primary school pupils should be given free school meals.
(1). Wllliams R. Jamie Oliver's school dinners shown to have improved academic results. The Guardian, 29 March 2010