I don't always catch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on television, but I did last night. It was heartbreaking. But also very telling. The LAUSD doesn't want him in their kitchens with his cameras because they are fearful of being criticized on television and I don't blame them. I am sure he'd be criticizing them.
But, as Oliver is pretty clear in his presentation, this isn't just about healthy food, this is about healthy people and healthy communities. This is why healthy food really is an ethical issue. It might be easy to think that healthy food is an ethical issue because of the environmental impact (hey, even my ethics of eating course is cross-listed with environmental studies). But there is a real human impact as well.
Oliver himself started to break down when he spoke of 17 year old West Adams High School students, including boys, breaking down in tears, talking about their fears. Their fears ad to do with family having health related illnesses like Type II diabetes and hypertension. These kinds of health related illnesses are in epidemic proportion in the US right now and it has taken a Brit for some folks to see the light.
Oliver has forged a relationship with these kids and this school. He has said he won't abandon them, moving his kitchen where he will teach classes to their neighborhood. He's shown the administrators what is possible at a school not unlike theirs--healthy food, a teaching garden, and kids eating and enjoying the food prepared from scratch by happy food service workers finally getting to use their skills.
When people say they don't have time to cook, I understand, but I think to myself, I don't have time not to. I am pretty sure that healthy meals prepared at home will pay me back with a healthier, longer life. I try to pass this idea on to my college students in my class and I hope that they can take it to heart. It also isn't more expensive if it also means one eats out less, buys junk food less, and doesn't just replace high fat, salt and caloric foods with other kinds of processed food.
I hope Jamie Oliver perseveres. He is doing good for people. It is good for us to see how much he cares about this, how it frustrates him not because he isn't making good tv (after all, even getting shut out of the LAUSD does make good tv), but because he cares about these people and what their diet means to them, to their families, to their community and to their future. This is an ethical issue because it either contributes to or detracts from a flourishing life.
If you haven't see The Food Revolution, check it out. Lots of the episodes can be found on the website, too. I don't normally plug tv on this blog, but I do think this one is worthwhile. And, if you are parents who need to inspire young kids try this PBS web-only show, Fizzy's Lunchlab, developed by a former student of my Dad's. It's cute, has some good ideas, and even encourages kids to want to cook.
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