Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver wants to change the way this country eats—and he's starting in the most overweight city in America. Read a Q&A from Jamie about the final episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.
Q: The final episode starts with some major victories for your campaign. How did it feel when Doug Shields from Cabell County Hospital said that they would donate $80,000 to support the school kitchen food program, then revealed they were donating another $50,000 on top of that?

A: It felt incredible because I'd been running around in circles trying to find cash locally to make this important project sustainable. I wanted to give Huntington a fighting chance so they could succeed in getting school food changed and keep the community kitchen up and running. I've seen the successes we've had in England over the last five years, so I know for a fact that good food really does change people's lives.

When Doug got the extra check out, that was just brilliant. It meant we could carry on with the work that we were doing with the community. I'm so appreciative of the efforts of Doug and the Cabell County Hospital. Local hospitals are undoubtedly under strain, and the fact that this one is supporting a project like this is great. It benefits them and the community they treat because the hospital can use the kitchen as an additional resource. It means when they treat people with diet-related illnesses they don't just have to send them home afterward—they can refer them to the kitchen so they can start to learn the basics of shopping and cooking for themselves and make important changes.

Q: You did 226 interviews on a recent PR trip to America to promote Food Revolution. What key message did you want to get out to everyone?

A: I just want to get Huntington and America to expect, and want, more because they deserve more. I know if they do start to do this and support things like the Food Revolution, magical things can happen. The bad guys will start cleaning up their recipes, and in a few years, the public will be able to get the food they love with less of the rubbish that's in it now. This is the time to do it, but it can't just be empty PR promises. Real change has to happen now, because this generation of Americans is expected to live a shorter life than their own parents, and that's unacceptable.
Q: After that positive start, how did it feel to see that junk food was back on the menu on a Friday at the school?

A: In many respects, Rhonda and her boss had been very generous to let us in the school in the first place, but obviously it didn't feel great to find that stuff back on the menu. Having done this before in the UK, I've seen incredible change happen from central government to individual schools, so I know it's possible. The problem is that before you reach that point, everyone tries to make it sound like it's too complicated to get fresh food into schools. The general feeling seems to be that everything is just fine as it is and that the nutritional standards are great and tick all of the boxes. They want you to prove to them that fresh food is better than junk and show analysis and statistics to back that up. Funnily enough, I've got all the analysis and I've got proof that fresh is better than junk, five years on, from independent studies done in England.

The problem is that government bodies are all protecting their own interests, so getting a straight answer out of them is so difficult. But I'll keep trying because I've got one interest only, and that's the kids. I think this is just the beginning, and it is really important that all parents keep pushing for the fresh food in schools. We don't want to have people who do Rhonda's job around the country saying no to trying to make this happen, we want them saying yes and giving it a go like Rhonda did. We don't want the USDA to give us nice one liners yet do nothing about it; we want them to find commodities that aren't processed and help schools to order those instead. If anyone thinks that this is going to stop, they are wrong because we are going to be back on the case next year, checking up on what has been achieved, what's been done and who the bad guys are—and there are a lot of bad guys!

Q: What is your message to anyone who has watched the show and wants to make positive changes?

A: Educate yourself about food and cooking. Even if you cruise around my website and read up on a few things and talk to people on the forums, in literally one month you could be shopping differently, budgeting differently, cooking differently and really enjoying it. And you'll start to see the benefits of that within about three weeks, you really will. All the latest research from the States that I've seen is showing that diet-related diseases are crippling the American public, but the incredible thing is that the damage done by a poor diet can—I repeat can—be reversed, so you must not think that it is too late. Everyone has different issues and different problems, but whatever the problems are, switching from processed to the fresh will make a radical difference and make you feel better, and ultimately it is going to make you live a longer, healthier life.

Q: What is your message for school cooks who want to make positive changes as well?

A: I am on your side 110 percent. If you are a school cook who is already doing great work, then you are probably fed up with me talking about how bad everything is, but I'm afraid I have to because 95 percent of schools in America have the same processed stuff coming in. So if you are one of those great schools that don't serve junk, then congratulations, I totally admire you. But if you are a school cook that is stuck with the processed food stuff and you want to change and want to help, there are loads of resources here on my website. Good luck to you; you can do it. Remember that it's so important and we really appreciate all of the hard work that you do. But if you're a school cook who wants to carry on serving the junk, I'm afraid you're going to have to move with the times.

Q: Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

A: Not really. The statistics of bad health, the things we're doing to ourselves through food, and frankly the things the governments of the past 40 years have lured us into being a part of, need to be shouted about. These aren't just statistics and facts that should go in one ear and out the other; these are things we need to put our heart and soul into changing—that's what I've tried to do by putting real people and real families out there with the statistics. It can be frustrating doing a show like this because there is so much I want to do, but the most important thing is that I have been able to tell the story at all. What's incredible for me is that the largest amount of people for the last four weeks have tuned in on a Friday night to ABC primetime. That tells me that people do want to know about these issues and they do care. Next time I have a go at it I can address the problems in different ways.

For me, there are two really big things to tackle. The first is making sure the wonderful school cooks of America are getting the training they need, and the second is untangling the overcomplicated system the USDA have for giving schools food that does not have to be processed so it can come in raw. But until then we will carry on and if you have signed the petition already, then a second step that you could take to really help the revolution is get two or three of your family members, your husband, your wife, your mum, your sister, your friends, basically anyone you know, to sign the petition. The next step for me is getting this petition to a million so it is be taken seriously by the White House.

Q: If you could project yourself into the future—what would the ideal scenario be in terms of the campaign?

A: My wish for America is the same for the UK, and everywhere really: that every child, no matter where they come from, is able to have home-cooked food in school 180 days of the year from the age of 4 to the age of 18. And that during those years they are taught about food and get some kind of relevant, exciting, hands-on life skills and cooking classes so when they do leave school, they are armed and equipped to cook great food, within budgets and how to enjoy salads and greens, not because they have to eat them but because they want to eat them. I think that, in conjunction with a slightly more robust sports initiative in schools, will definitely, without question set America up to be in a totally, totally different place in the next 13 years, and it sounds like a long time but it is really not.

I think these wishes are really simple, and if they don't come true, there is enough evidence out there to give you a glimpse at what our destiny looks like: At the moment, the cost of obesity in America is $145 billion! And in the next eight to 10 years, it is set to double. Quite frankly, if nothing else, you can't afford to have that happen. So let's take any small amount of cash from the predicted amount that's going to be spent on treating obesity and invest it in preventing the problem in the first place. I think that's common sense, but unfortunately, basic common sense often struggles to get through Congress. Fingers crossed. The only ones that can make it happen are you guys, so to all of you, the parents of America, I say be loud, be noisy. This stuff is basic. You all deserve it, so get busy with it, don't take any crap, don't let anyone beat you down, don't let anyone tell you that what your child eats isn't your business because what your child eats and what your child is taught is totally your business. Don't forget you are paying for it with your tax dollars. 

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