The last episode marks the end of three months in Huntington, West Virginia. Jamie has rolled out the school lunch program to about half the schools in the district, opened Jamie’s Kitchen (renamed “Huntington’s Kitchen”) which offers free cooking classes, and procured funding from the local hospital for both school lunch training and the store-front kitchen. There are smiles and hugs and dancing children.
… Time passes …
After running all over the country on a press junket for the show, Jamie returns to Huntington on April 12 (after the series has started airing) and there are some bumps in the road turning Jamie’s usual energy to snark. The school has an overstock of processed food they need to use up. More students are bringing lunch from home, which Jamie calls “anarchy coming in in brown paper bags,” usually Lunchables (plastic packs of sliced lunch meat, cheese, and crackers) and “luminous jelly” (Jello cups), potato chips, and candy.
Jamie organizes a Boot Camp to bring parents, teachers and principals, and lunchroom cooks from all across town together in one place. His biggest supporter is surprisingly Alice, the cook from Central City Elementary, previously his biggest foe, who assures the other cooks that once they get used to the new system they’ll be fine and feel better about serving students healthy meals. Clouds part, angels sing. The real enemy is revealed to be the USDA, and a montage featuring Jamie hugging every person ever on the show ensues.
The good: Taking vilified Alice (I wasn’t surprised when he said she’s received hate mail) around town and having her tout his program is a huge step. During a very brief (but significant) moment when Jamie returned to the elementary school he greeted the principal and noted, “You’ve lost weight.” The principal replied yes, about 25 pounds — inspired by the Food Revolution. Parents seem engaged in the issues. The best part is just increasing awareness all over the country about the state of and possibilities for our eating habits. It’s not about fat-shaming or making people eat lettuce, it’s about educating people and giving them the tools to make healthy choices.
The bad: Particularly at the end, Jamie insisted that the Food Revolution can’t be about him, it needs to be about the people of Huntington (and everywhere) making good choices. While I agree, I think the format of the program didn’t demonstrate his point. One of the best moments in the whole series was the high school students talking about why they wanted Jamie to succeed and how they been personally affected by poor health and eating habits. We only saw them a few mores times and didn’t get to hear them speak again. After 6 months, what changed in their lives? I wanted the family he worked with in the first episode to be more than familiar faces in crowd shots and a brief line about them all losing weight. I wanted to hear 12-year-old Justin say how the experience has affected him and his parents talk about what the changes have meant for them.
Also, while I don’t deny that subsidized school food is a major problem, Jamie seems a bit defeated at his last chat with the superintendent. He tells the camera, “It’s down to me to negotiate with the USDA to allow them to get hold of the fresh foods they need. This is not a happy ending.”
Perhaps it was a time issue of interviewing and editing, but I am curious as to how the people the spent so much time introducing fared after those episodes. Jamie says, “We’ve met some amazing people,” but we don’t follow up with them. I think that by showing their results instead of close-ups of Jamie assuring us that everything is great, people might be more inspired to take steps to improve their own lives.
His last words are: “It’s over to you now, it can’t just be my fight anymore. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning.”
Did you watch the Food Revolution? What did you think?
If you agree with the ideas of the show, you can also hop over to Jamie’s site and sign a petition that supports healthy foods in schools.
Episode 6: FINALE