After some nice feedback after I wrote about the first few episodes, I’m back with some thoughts on the fourth and fifth episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Again, embedded episodes are at the end of the post.
School lunches are getting lots of attention outside of this show. If you have a few minutes, check out this article from Time.com about other school lunch revolutionaries.
Episode 4: Teaching 1,000 people to cook
In this episode, Jamie bets the local morning radio host, arch-nemesis nay-sayer Rod, that he can teach 1,000 people to cook in five days at Jamie’s Kitchen. The rivalry with DJ Rod is extremely contrived and seems to serve only as dramatic conflict. A Western music theme each time the DJ shows up? Really? As the “fight” progresses, both admit that the bet is silly and that what is important is helping the people in the community. Awwwwww. To me it felt like the DJ was set up from the beginning as a villain and his “conversion” gave Jamie an excuse to stage events like a visit to a funeral parlor to talk about double-wide coffins that require two grave spaces and a tearful recap of townspeople whose lives have been adversely affected by poor diet. Valid? Yes. Did Rod need to stand in as the doubtful Everyman? Maybe not. The positive attitude shift at the end was less annoying, so I’ll forgive the ploy.
The other major stunt took place at Marshall University. Jamie decides to get the attention of the college students by recruiting some dancers and staging a choreographed flash mob doing an interpretive dance while making stir fry. Some recaps mock the flash mob as silly theatrics (which I concede), but it was my husband’s favorite part of the series so far. I’m less worried about the reactions of people who already think that food is an important issue than I am about regular people (like my husband) who don’t.
Early setup? Sketchy. End result? Happy. I liked it. My favorite thing about this episode is that my husband watched it before me. He’s my litmus test of “normal” people’s interests.
Episode 5: Letting the students vote with their forks
Jamie starts the episode by meeting with the heads of the local hospital, the largest employer in the city. The administrators are a bit defensive that they are being portrayed as unhelpful when they have not yet been asked to help. Jamie flat out asks them for funding to train the cooks in the school district to take his program city-wide.
Next, Jamie speaks to the assembled high school students at Huntington High. He apologizes for taking the french fries, but asks them to help support him by choosing his healthier meals. He is worried that they will continue eating their beloved junk food. The teenagers vote with their feet and line up for Jamie’s choice, requiring the cafeteria to open a second line of the healthy option. Jamie gets permission to serve multiple healthy options in the high school lunch room.
Time for conflict! Jamie checks in on the cafeteria only to discover that the food distributor has delivered frozen processed chicken instead of raw chicken requiring a last-minute menu change. Jamie indignantly goes to visit the distributor, US Foodservice, at their warehouse. He gasps in horror at the giant freezer full of boxes. BUT WAIT! There is a whole section full of fresh produce! Miraculously, the company will, in fact, provide what their customers order, whether fresh or processed. Ahh, capitalism. Wal-Mart did not enter the organics market out of the goodness in their tiny hearts, it was to gain market share. If you order fresh food, the food distributor will find it for you. That’s their job. Duh.
There were two segments in the show I really loved. Back at the elementary school, Jamie was dismayed to find sugar-bomb flavored milk back in the cooler. He watches kids choose chocolate time and time again, until a small group starts selecting only plain milk. When asked why they chose plain milk the answer is simple, “Our teacher told us to,” and they did. The school asks the milk company to come pick up the flavored milk — plain milk only. When the driver comes to retrieve the bottles, Jamie asks what he’s doing. To paraphrase the driver: “They asked me to take the flavored stuff. It’s got more sugar than soda!” Hilarious.
The other part I liked was near the end when Jamie got a food truck serving locally-sourced organic food like bison burgers and salads to park outside the hospital (again, the largest employer in the area). Many hospitals have only fast food options, and the staff flocked outside to try the fresh food (including the head honcho Jamie is romancing for funding).
Fewer moments of this episode felt dramatized than the previous few, and I like that more segments of the population are getting involved in the project. I felt optimistic at the end of this episode and look forward to the next one.