Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend Movie: Real Health Care Reform

Forgive the digression from my usual panoply of topics, but I just watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and I'm feeling inspired and frustrated and generally all charged up. To begin with, if you haven't seen Oliver's TED talk, please take a break from whatever you're doing and check it out.

FYI, here's a report on some of the more or less immediate results of implementing Oliver's changes in the UK:

"An independent study showed the performance of 11-year-old pupils eating Oliver's meals improved in science and English, while absenteeism due to ill-health fell by 15 per cent . . . There was also a slight improvement in maths results."

If these are the SHORT-TERM results, after having been on the new nutrition plan for 12 months, imagine the long-term payoff.

I was frankly ASTONISHED not just by how ignorant the food workers and some other locals were, but how belligerent they were about it. How is it even possible that they don't understand what the problem is? Or even that there IS A PROBLEM?? Now, I can sympathize with being concerned about the logistics and time constraints of using ingredients from scratch, but to not even grasp the absurdity of what children (and presumably, they) are eating day in and day out?

To be fair, this is also certainly a situation that is bound to put people on the defensive, but I felt he was taking care to be reasonably sensitive (as in, without caving and capitulating). If only the lunch ladies and bureaucrats had taken the open attitude of the family he worked with - now there was a glimmer or two of hope. Still, I wish he would have taken the time to explain to the resistant parties that he HAS been able to pull off overhauls of similar lunch systems in England, as well as explaining the impact of those changes, and perhaps even a little bit on why this is so important, if they were truly that clueless. Perhaps this took place off camera, though? This is, after all, still television. Even so, it would have been enlightening for viewers to learn more as well. But hey, this is just the beginning, we'll see.

This is so fundamental. Nutrition could not be more important. The only thing closer to the core of the foundation of our health is breastfeeding (aaaaaaand we're back on-topic!); then again, the health of mothers is the true original source even before breastfeeding begins . . . Ah, well, chicken or egg, you know what I mean. [Note to self: one of these days I need to do a post on both prenatal and postpartum nutrition.]

Anyway, I hope you tune in! Episodes are available online for otherwise unplugged folks. And please take a moment to sign his petition for public school lunch overhauls. If Oliver succeeds, I think he deserves the American equivalent of knighthood. Hell, I think he deserves it for even trying.


  1. Been reading your blog for awhile, first time commenter. Love Doulas, natural birth, breastfeeding and all that comes with it so thanks for putting out the word on these important issues. This one is huge. I personally homeschool my children for many personal reasons, but admit that a bottom reason, though important, nutrition is one of them. I feel very good to know that my kids know what food is, where it comes from, that we cook it and even better that they don't know who Ronald McDonald is or what a chicken nugget is. We aren't perfect in what we eat, but we try. We know when something is a "treat". In the summer "free lunch" programs from schools are the same which is why I have never gone to them. Free doesn't equal good. Having a father who suffered 2 major heart attacks one at the age of 30 and the other at 40, has influenced me to want more for my kids. Food and nutrition are so important. And I think Jamie Oliver is awesome for trying to show America and England the junk we are eating and feeding kids. I know parents who cook healthy meals and go to their kids school to see them eating garbage and are upset. Every parent should be! It is a lie that we need to feed kids these foods because they won't eat the healthy ones. I am a firm believer that they will, if given the education and opportunity. And the super-indendent who was upset by the "waste" of the healthy foods should be more upset by the waste of the junk in the kid's bodies. Its a waste either way in my book and sooner or later, they will eat the good food if they are hungry enough. It is possible to cook nutritious food on a budget. I do it all the time. A school can do it too if they just are told how. Its SO possible!! Thank you for putting this on here.

  2. Neil just had me watch that episode... he loves the show!

    I think that people get really defensive because they don't want to take responsibility for their own nutritional choices & accept that another way is possible... they just don't choose it.

    It's easier to think that change is impossible if you don't want to change.

  3. You commented a while back on my blog and I just came across it... thanks so much for reading about our little Matthias and taking the time to comment. Just knowing that one more person out there knows of him is a comfort to a grieving mama!

    Your blog is fascinating, just up my ally! As a fellow birth advocate it's refreshing to find someone else gettin' the word out there. :) I have attended two births as a support person and am really leaning towards doula-ing at some point in the future, when I'm done with my own little babies. I hope your road towards midwifery works out - American women need you! :)

  4. Oh wow.
    Thanks for sharing. This isn't out yet in Australia, but I'll help spread it over here. I am originally from California - so all my mates back there will be getting an email too.
    Thanks for your inspiration. I think you are beautiful - inside and out!
    xx Amy

  5. I love the Jamie oliver's Food Revolutions.

  6. I agree that learning about proper nutrition is important for everyone, but Oliver's and the show's approach is problematic for many reasons. Because it would take to long for me to comment and because this person says it better than I can, here is a link that details why shaming people for not knowing about proper nutrition is absolutely terrible.

    Note: if you aren't familiar with Melissa McKewan's writing, that first paragraph is satire. But the rest is serious.

  7. Anonymous, welcome! And I know what you mean on the homeschooling thing. I don;t think I have it in me to homeschool (huge kudos to parents who do), but I must say, if my only public school choices all served garbage like that, I would seriously consider it. Yes, there is always the option to send a bag lunch, and I surely would, but the influence the majority of one's peers eating the cafeteria's food is going to create a problem.

    I remember all too well the fickleness of what was cool and what was not - sometimes bringing your lunch was cool, but more often than not, pizza and tater tots and the like from the cafeteria was the only "in" way to eat. I pray I can keep Lily from being exposed to that. (Please understand, everyone, I'm certainly not against an occasional treat - what Cookie Monster now calls a "Sometimes Food".)

    Kate, did you guys check out the TED talk too? Good stuff.

  8. Melissa, happy to see you here! I will always remember Matthias' story. And cheers on your own road to doula work and midwifery!

    Olivia, thanks for sharing that. I read the post, and a good way into the comments as well, and just have to respectfully disagree. I understand the problem of fat-shaming from a feminist perspective, believe me I do - I wrestled with eating disorders for years, primarily due to being a dancer (occupational hazard) but certainly influenced by cultural factors as well. And I don't see Jamie's intention as fat-shaming, I truly don't. The problems with obesity are addressed head-on as health-related. Oliver isn't telling them they'll never find love or star in a Hollywood film, he's telling them that their excess weight, due to the resulting health issues, is going to take years, possibly decades, off their life - and that's a fact, unfortunately.

    One salient point brought up by the commenters in your link that I DO hope the show addresses is the fact that a thin person eating that swill and living that overall lifestyle is not healthy either. We all know the occasional person who happens to have lucked into a lightning-speed metabolism and can eat ridiculous amounts of crap food without putting on weight (ex-boyfriend, I'm glaring fondly at you). They might be able to dodge some of the obesity-related bullets, but by no means does that make them HEALTHY.

    I also appreciate that the writer and ensuing discussion gets into the matter of classism. VERY valid and important to discuss - as "Food, Inc." illustrated, often families find themselves stuck in the vicious cycle of eating affordable junk food rather than fresh produce for the simplest of economic reasons. The low income family, already strapped from every angle, including the cost of medication, they accompany to the grocery store could buy one pear for the little girl, or they could buy a bag of chips for the whole family to share. And the downward spiral of health continues.

    Again, thanks for bringing that up. I do think the show should address these economic issues, absolutely. I hope they do - it did just barely get started, after all. I'm optimistic.

  9. I am happy to see you at here and i agree that learning about proper nutrition is important for everyone, but Oliver's and the show's approach is problematic for many reasons.