I am a fan of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC. His work to improve our health, particularly that of our children, is just about the most important work I can think of. That being said, he has hit a couple of snags.
His viewership dived from 7.5 million the first week to 4.325 million a decline of 43%. Although it’s typical to have a drop-off from a premiere this was particularly steep.
The Kids Don’t Like the Food
In addition a new study came out last week calling in to question the success of the school lunch program in Huntington, WV.
The Health Research Center of West Virginia University surveyed 109 4th and 5th graders as well as teachers and cooks at Central City Elementary. 77% of the students said that they were “very unhappy” with the new food program. The average participation rate of the students was 75% two months before Food Revolution entered the school and dropped to 66% participation two months after Food Revolution had been implemented. The study also noted that milk consumption went down by 25% after the flavored milks were removed from the cafeteria.
Finally nutritional analysis of the lunch program showed the food was not meeting USDA guidelines. Total fat content over a week long period was 31.24% when the target is no more than 30%. The saturated fat was high was well, coming in at 12.87% when it shouldn’t be over 10%. The study did note that calcium, Vitamins A and C, and iron were all well above USDA standards.
The Teachers Do Like the Food
When the teachers were surveyed a different story emerges. The teachers tasted no appreciable difference in the flavor of the food, rating the before and after meals from Food Revolution about equal. They did perceive the meals to be much more nutritious though.
The Cooks Didn’t Like It Either
The six cooks interviewed (one has to wonder if Alice Gue was one of them …) said that the prep time took about an hour more per day. 83% of the cooks rated the pre-Revolution meals as good or excellent, only 50% of the cooks rated the Revolution meals as good and the other 50% rated it as fair or poor.
So what happens when you take breakfast pizza away from the kids and hand them fruit? They complain. Does that mean we should cave to the little darlings and hand them back their greasy, processed piles of goop? No!
The fact that the teachers saw no real difference in the quality of food to me says the kids just wanted to eat what they were used to regardless of the health effects. Also worth noting, the fat content was a bit above USDA guidelines but 1) the cooks might not have been following the recipes as closely as they needed to and 2) there was no similar nutritional analysis of the pre-Revolution food. I’m wondering how close those entrees came to the guidelines?
As for the additional prep time, well that makes sense. We can either pop a frozen dinner in the microwave and nuke the sucker for 4 minutes or we can take extra time to prepare fresh food, perhaps 20 to 30 minutes, and cook a more nutritious meal.
What are your thoughts? Does Jamie Oliver’s plan have a chance in this country. It took him four years to be successful in Britain, how long do you think it will take here? Feedback is welcome.