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One year ago British chef and food activist Jamie Oliver brought his revolution to America. Or to be more precise, he (along with producer Ryan Seacrest) brought it to our television screens. The lofty goals of the revolution are deceptively simple, yet nearly impossible to achieve. Essentially he’d like to give kids school lunches that are made from whole foods prepared by a staff of cooks. No more processed junk, no more sugary milk, and no more nutritionally suspect items jiggling around on lunch trays.
Perhaps an entertaining little hour of TV isn’t exactly going to inspire every parent out there to question the local school board about the food their child eats. Ironically that’s a bit of the problem I have with Food Revolution, is that it’s displayed as entertainment more than anything else. Despite Jamie himself trying to tell the people of Los Angeles, where he’s headed to for the new season, that this isn’t reality programming. For those people he’s right, but most of those watching at home are going to see it as more mindless entertainment. A tidbit of information to share with colleagues the next morning at work while enjoying “Bagel Wednesday” might prove to be the extent of "joining the cause" for most people.
Long before this season began news broke that Oliver was having trouble getting into the schools in LA to even examine the food, let alone try implementing the program. The second season not only acknowledges this hurdle, but makes it the first major obstacle for Oliver. So, as he did in Huntington, Jamie turns to the radio and a community kitchen to sound the call to arms. It happens to be the show’s producer, Ryan Seacrest, who fills in for the far more caricature-esque DJ Rod this time around. But that’s fine, because Jamie finds there to be far bigger obstacles in LA.
Banned from even entering the schools to examine the food, Oliver has the food brought to him. He then does a demonstration on how through a “process” the factories can take the scrap meat (which is normally used for animal feed) and make it safe to consume by humans. It’s shocking, but if you aren’t aware of the ammonia soaked meat products being sold at every fast food joint in the country then you’re just practicing deliberate ignorance. Ask yourself why a McDonald’s hamburger makes you feel a little nauseous after you eat it.
The first episode of the new season is pretty much a redo of last year. Jamie is meeting a lot of resistance, but this time around the entire city is against him. Or it would seem. Parents don’t show up to witness his stunt to display the many tons of sugar consumed on a weekly basis in LA area schools. The superintendent doesn’t want Jamie anywhere near the system. And a local private fast food joint is willing to see if Jamie can make fast food healthy, but refuses to remove anything from his current menu. Aside from the restaurant owner (who’s simply looking out for a business that pays for his livelihood) it is a sea of people sticking their heads in the sand.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution will hopefully open some eyes to the enormous problem in America with childhood obesity and the role school lunch plays. It’s a little sad that it takes a major network program for this to become a real national discussion. Oliver is a very charming guy, and it’s heartbreaking to watch him struggle with the bureaucracy. And if nothing else, the show is one of the more entertaining food centric programs currently on the air.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution second season premiere airs Tuesday, April 12 at 8:00 PM ET.