Take one-part national health statistic, one-part school lunch program, add a portion of resistance, and top it off with a British celebrity chef, and you have a new reality TV show: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The show, which started airing on ABC on March 21, follows Oliver’s efforts to healthy up an elementary school lunch program in America’s unhealthiest city, Huntington, West Virginia, where half of all adults are obese and the children’s life expectancy is shorter than their parents.
The media is abuzz with reports of a recent survey of the Huntington elementary students that seems to point to Oliver’s failed attempts to win students over to a healthier lifestyle. NPR reports that the survey found that the students preferred their junk food over Oliver’s healthier fare. “And when denied the food they were used to, many stopped buying lunch.” The survey also found that children drank less milk once Oliver eliminated the sweeter chocolate and strawberry varietals.
Oliver isn’t only fighting the kids in the show; he’s also got resistance from outside the school, including one disgruntled radio DJ, who’s quoted in the first episode saying, “We don’t want to sit around and eat lettuce all day long.” And he adds, “I don’t think Jamie’s got anything that can change this town, he can try all he wants, but I don’t think he’s got it.”
A shot of a school staff member declaring French fries a vegetable might stir up reminders of a former president referring to ketchup as a vegetable. What might rattle your cage even more are images of children misidentifying produce (ie, tomatoes as potatoes) and the truck that dumps loads of fat into a pick-up to the horrifying screams of children and adults.
So, it’s conceivable that the jury’s not out—the kids could still get with the program. The show runs through April. And the UK’s Guardian reports that since Oliver cleaned up the menu at a school in Greenwich, south London, not only did the students’ official scores jump, but the number of excused absences attributed to illness fell by 15 percent.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.