Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The reality.

I am a reality TV hater. Truly. However, I did see the “preview” episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Honestly, what he’s trying to accomplish is so vital, and also so valiant.

He has gone in to the most unhealthy city in America. They have the most deaths from health problems resulting from obesity. So they are dying young. They are the most obese city in the most obese country in the world. So he went there to attempt to effect positive change.

He’s trying to start in one school, be successful there and they will start to adopt his ideas for the entire school system. But he only has a week. A week to make healthy food that meets the ridiculous USDA requirements, a week to serve fresh food on the same budget as processed, a week to feed all those kids and get them to like it. A week. I can’t imagine kids that have been raised only on processed foods could change their tastes and these eating habits they’ve had no choice in for pretty much the whole of their lives.

Worst of all, he’s got a kitchen full of women who pretty much hate and resent him. Their contempt is palpable. One in particular is a real ball-busting biotch. I CANNOT fathom not wanting someone to bring healthy change knowing that these kids they are feeding are the first in generations to have a shorter life expectancy than the previous generation. At least, I cannot imagine not being OPEN to a better way.

Having lived abroad, I think the saddest thing that Americans are known for is for being, on the whole, fat. I remember having been there about a month, when in a bathroom I heard two Europeans talking about this. I wanted to come out of the stall and say, “Really, ALL Americans?” using me as an example for the thin side… but I knew at that point a least I was only proof of their stereotype. It really bummed me out. Not because I cared about their opinions, but because I cared that we are so unhealthy. That I was (am again) so unhealthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with my body whatever it’s size. But I want to be healthy and fit as a way of life. When I lived abroad I achieved that. Without even knowing it, I lost 50 pounds. Just eating like the locals, walking everywhere, and frankly, being happy. And I truly didn’t have a clue it was happening.

These women at the school kitchen Jaime Oliver is working in think they don’t have a choice. They just do what they’re told, so to speak. The school food board essentially say the same thing – they just follow the USDA guidelines. Two breads a day. At least this much sodium, at least this much fat. Blah-blah-blah. No personal responsibility, so no guilt. No ability to change anything (so they tell themselves), so no extra effort need be made. Worst of all, they don’t think anything is wrong with their status quo.

It seems to me we are allowing the government, yet again, to decide things for us. This time it’s the health of our children. It’s the length of their lives. I’m not even a parent and I care deeply about this. Yes, I’m pissed off that our government is so all-invasive and can control so much, but why I care deeply is that these are children. We, in feeding them this processed CRAP, are taking years off their lives and training them to do the same for themselves. Not to mention the things that can’t develop properly because they aren’t getting the proper nutrition.

I think the most significant thing that Oliver said in that episode is that he’s been to South Africa in the townships and those kids are getting fed better and healthier food than American kids are in school. Appalling. Parents should care. We as a community should care. I care.

I won’t be watching the show because I frankly cannot stand the platform of reality TV (if it were a documentary project I’d be all-in), but I will try to discover whether his project succeeded or failed. I know he did revolutionize the food system in schools in Britain, so there is some hope. I will hope. And eat veggies for lunch!

By the way, Oliver has a petition going to improve school food, if you’re interested.

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