'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' recap: 'I can't believe it.' Me neither. Did you?

This week, when most of the high school kids in Huntington, West Virginia, were offered french fries, pizza, or chef Jamie Oliver’s “home made spaghetti sauce [with] six or seven vegetables in there,” the majority chose the veggie sauce. Oliver exclaimed, “I can’t believe it!”

Neither could I. This was the first week of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution when I thought the conventions of reality-TV had finally overtaken the documentary truth the series has been trying to portray. The change in youth behavior was just too abrupt, based on what we’d been shown previously.

Which is to say, it may have been irresistible for many of those students to choose the “right” line while in┬áthe presence of the TV cameras.

So what, you say — whatever the motive, the kids were eating better, right? Well, that kind of goes against what Oliver claims he wants to instill: Knowledge and a genuine desire to eat healthily after the Food Revolution production company packs up and leaves town.

Oh, well. Oliver had bigger fish to fry… or fleece. Jamie needed $150,000 to continue his fresh-food supply, and he appealed to local bigwig Doug Sheils to donate the money. Sheils and a group of West Virginia business-people heard the chef’s spiel, and then expressed their reservations — specifically, that the ABC series’ constant labelling of Huntington as the most unhealthy city in America (a claim based on a 2008 Associated Press story cited when the show first premiered) was giving Huntington a bad national image.

Hah! Doesn’t Sheils realize that withholding money because of concern for the town’s image over its health is a worse image to broadcast on national television?

Next week is the season finale of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. This week’s hour felt a bit padded (we get it, we get it: chocolate milk has more sugar than unflavored milk). But I’ll bet the final episode will have a lot of good food, good fights (come on, Alice, I know you can pick at least one more fight with Jamie, you wonderful woman!), and a good send-off.

What did you think of this week’s Food Revolution?

Would you choose a bison burger over a slice of pizza?

Follow @kentucker

Comments (136 total) Add your comment
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  • Tarc

    Hmmm. Would I choose a bson burger over a slice of the grossest pizza made in America (school pizza)? Hell yes. Would I choose the veggie spaghetti over horribly prepared fried (and more of the grosssest pizza in America)? Um, yeah. Heck, I even like fries and pizza, but you couldn’t pay me to eat that school-produced gack. I don’t think it’d be *that* hard to convince kids to eat basic edible food over that garbage.

    • kaloalo

      i agree – anyone who’s eaten lunch provided by the public school system can’t deny the pizza and fries are really really gross – especially the pizza – the exact same greasy pizza with translucent cheese on it was served from elementary school all the way through high school
      so no, it’s really not that hard to believe that the kids would opt for the spaghetti line

      • Terry

        I can’t vouch for it now, but the pizza my high school was very good. I actually had my brother bring me a couple slices home a couple of years later when I was on leave from the army. But that was the 70’s and the probably stopped making fresh pizza and started nuking them.

      • Tarc

        The you are the very rare exception, Terry. Most school pizza is absolutely gross, topped with oil-based cheese that breaks down when cooked and has 75% fat pepperoni. It’s a square, soggy mess with a smidge of nasty orange sauce and topped with an oil slick from the fake cheese and the fats in the pepperoni. I love all kinds of pizza – from Italian-style to deep dish = but this isn’t even safe, edible food.

      • mcl

        I can vouch for the late 90’s…. the pizza then in my school was delicious. So were the fries… mmm my mouth is watering… Besides that. I do love the show. And think he’s doing a good thing. We need more flexitarians in this world.

    • Rose

      Actually, the kids have been pumped with trash so much at home and school, they don’t know what good food tastes like. Good For Jaimie. I love the show

      • Tim

        I think once the kids smelled real food, everyone wanted some.

        Our school’s pizza was so gross you could hold it and watch the oil drip off. Heck yeah I’d have picked real spaghetti.

        It’s not like veggie spaghetti or a bison burger are cow tongues. They are still burgers and spaghetti.

      • Tarc

        That’s exactly it, Tim. No one is asking the kids to eat anything radically different! A lean burger on a non-synthetic bun or sphegetti with a veggie pasta sauce is only a marginal change – and a vast health improvement. Now if the federal rules would change to state that potatos are a ‘starch’ not a vegetable, we’d be getting somewhere. Everybody likes fresh, healthy food because it looks and tastes good. I’m hardly a health nut, but what is happening currently in schools is totally unacceptable.

    • yvonne

      I think Jamie is trying to fight a battle here that shoudl have been fought a long time ago. we used to get Bisquick pizza at school-wasnt bad but wasnt good. The food we serve our children in this country needs to be fresh and healthy. For some of these kids- it’s the only healthy food they will get.

  • Charles

    I agree, Ken, it was a MEHpisode.

    • voluptuousdate

      great show!

    • DW

      A MEHpisode? Really? Please don’t go into comedy writing.

  • Jasmin

    First offs the homemade food didn’t look very appealig. A bison burger sounds disgusting. If he had come to my school with the same food, I would have chosen my school lunch. By the way; to those who day school produced food is crap must have gone to a crap school because my school lunges are pretty decent.

    • ger

      It’s just your English classes that are crap.

      • C.

        LOL!

      • Lace

        Burn!!!

      • David

        TOO Funny!

    • Kat

      You only say that because you’ve never had a bison burger! They are DELICIOUS.

      • Tarc

        Yup! Just a leaner, slightly more meathy tasting version of beef. Delicious. And American made.

    • i’m a lady

      what makes cows and bison so different?

      • mmex

        Um, genetics?

      • Suzy

        Bison are naturally leaner and not grown with the hormones and junk that cows are.

      • Kristin

        They graze on natural grasses and are not force fed corn like cattle. Their diet is better which makes them healthier animals and healthier meat.

    • ncrad

      My school lunges were terrible. And the rope climbing? Don’t get me started.

      • Lesa

        hahahahahahahahah! that was great.

      • Christina

        Funny, but still sad that we can even make fun of an English-speaking American student that can’t even properly spell simple words.

      • Brett

        Ncrad – that could very well be the funniest response I have ever read on a board.

    • Christina

      Wow spell check much, I think maybe your school needs to concentrate on actually educating you enough to type a simple statement! Oh and your wonderful school lunches may be the reason you can’t retain basic spelling skills. I think someone should do a reality show on how American’s have lost the basic skills of spelling it is hear not here and is is lose not loose, sorry just my pet peeve that grown adults can’t even write basic English properly these days!

  • jenny

    yummm Yes! Bison Burgers are delicious and as Tarc said above, school pizza is about as bad as it comes. But given the choice between really good quality pizza and a bison burger… it would be harder, but I probably would still go with the bison. Delicious! By the way- Spaghetti with homemade veggie sauce sounds so delicious right now :)

  • Mari

    I think this “revolution” would have sent a better message if it wasn’t televised. Kids are clever – they know when something is “right”. When we were seniors in college we had to go to different elementary schools to ask them questions regarding their eating habits. Most of the kids gave the “correct” response but when we actually looked at their lunch bags they had junk food in it instead of the healthier food they claimed they preferred.

  • Joanna

    When I was watching this and they gave the options of the food, I wish they had the option of pizza and a side salad that way you get both.

    • Tom

      I think on a normal day there is a pizza line, and the salad bar line, so the kids could always get both. Problem being most kids don’t want to stand in line twice, especially to get the salad I suppose.

  • sam

    I’m just surprised that you think that any of this was authentic. His goal is excellent, but the entire thing is clearly scripted. He wins over the villains and saves the day–but I bet the kids went back to pizza when the camera turned off. Wouldn’t an honest show have accomplished more? And by the way, Jamie looks a bit rough around the edges–he has gained weight and he could use a good shampoo and haircut.

    • C.

      I was wondering about Jamie. I’m not familiar with him, but I saw a pic of him before the show, and he did a bit thinner and more clean-cut. I hate to say this, but did he perhaps think by adding a couple pounds and getting shaggier he would fit in more in America? Otherwise it’s odd he would gain a few and get a little less professional looking. No biggie either way, I’m just not familiar with him before this show.

      • HdCreepy

        You must have seen an very old pic during his “naked chef” era. He has been quite chubby for a few years. As for shaggy… his idea was to avoid looking overly formal in some chef outfit or something. But of course for this show he just COULDN’T look too clean or people would hate him even more.

      • C.

        HdCreepy, I think the photo was actually on this website, which I thought was odd. I’m not familiar with the naked chef thing. Thanks for the info.

    • Rico

      “I bet the kids went back to pizza when the camera turned off.”

      But, later in the show, he asked for permission to make all four lines healthy. That means the kids won’t have an unhealthy option. I think that was the point. He took away the fries too soon, but now that he got the kids to all try his food and say they like it, the bad food will no longer be an option. They *can’t* go back to the bad food.

  • Kat

    Ken, I understand what you’re saying about the image broadcast by a man arguing about funding healthier food for the kids of his town…but I also see his point. Oliver is doing West Virginia no favors by coming in and telling them what they already know and televising it so that the whole country can peek into what I’m sure many of them think is a country-fried Hicksville full of ignorant hillbillies, just because they can be fat and they have a different accent. The concept of this show kind of DOES hurt their image. I know they earned the title of unhealthiest city in America that year, but shaming people, especially publicly, often makes them dig in their heels and get defensive rather than make any positive change. And this town didn’t ask him to come in and help. They didn’t invite him to come make a buck off them. I understand he has good intentions, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with it were I a Huntington resident. So I can understand why this Huntington man would be reluctant to give $150,000 to some guy who is doing things in a way that he doesn’t appreciate. I’ve said it before, but I’m very uncomfortable with the fact that this is being televised. I’d be all for it if he wanted to go in and try to revolutionize them off-camera, but I think it’s exploitative to put it on TV. It just adds fuel to the fire of the stereotypical fat ignorant Southern/Applachia dweller, which I’ve learned a lot of people actually seem to think is mostly true. More likely to be fat? Yes. Stupid? Hell to the no. I moved to WV two years ago, and while I can tell you that just looking around, there does seem to be a higher percentage of overweight people here, I think a lot of them are trying to be healthier. All anyone (even the skinny ones) at my workplace can talk about is trying to lose weight/eat better, and how many pounds they’ve lost, and they didn’t need Jamie Oliver to swoop in and teach them better.

    • mmex

      I found that Doug Shiels was blaming Jamie for the title “fattest city”, when that was actually given to them by the CDC(?) report initially, then by the AP story that got Jamie’s attention in the first place. Don’t blame Jamie for what the US has done to Huntingdon. Thank him for coming and trying to give them a new claim to fame.

      • Ellen

        With the exception of being unhappy that the “fattest city” label was being dragged out again, I thought Doug Shiels came across as very cooperative and willing to listen. While Jamie had nothing to do with the initial CDC report, he did bring it back to national attention, and I think that’s what the hospital administrators were saying. Unfortunately, the show’s editors probably took out all the positive things they said in that initial meeting in order to build drama. There is no doubt in my mind that Shiels will come through; he came across as a good guy to me.

      • Julia

        Sheils seemed cooperatve and willing to listen? Maybe you saw a different meeting than what I saw. Hearing these “health care professionals” citing the fact that businesses wouldn’t want to come to Huntington if the show made it seem like it was a city filled with unhealthy workers made me furious. Since when is a hospital more concerned with business development for a city than supporting an initiative focused on improving the health of the citizens? Wanna know what’s wrong with health care? That room was full of it. And don’t even get me started on Sheils’ petulant “We would help if we’d been asked to help. So far, we haven’t been asked to help.I haven’t heard anyone asking us to help.” Uh…gee, what did you think the meeting was for, exactly, Doug? I was appalled by their behavior, edited or not. Hey, Cabell-Huntington, having a TV show featuring your town’s overweight citizens doesn’t make Huntington look ignorant. Having a TV show featuring your petulant administrators who seem to care more about public image than about public health does.

      • Ellen

        @Julia – Yes, I really did think Sheils seemed cooperative and willing to listen. He said several times that he supported what Jamie was trying to do and I believe he was quite sincere. I have a pretty good bull****-o’-meter, and it wasn’t going off. My first impression of that group was that they were blaming Jamie for the CDC report, which was unfair, but other than that issue, which we never really saw resolved, they listened to what he had to say.
        As far as Sheil’s “petulant” statement about being willing to help if only they had been asked, didn’t you hear Jamie say, “I’m asking NOW”? Sheils & Co. had not been asked until then, yet the implication was that they were not willing to help, which was unfair. There was some creative writing and editing going on there to make it look like it was Jamie against the Big Shots. Do you really think Sheils is not going to come through?
        Also, if the only impression you are getting about the good folks in Huntington is that they “look ignorant,” then we are indeed watching another show. I am coming away with the impression that the people of Huntington care about their health as much as anyone else in our country. Justin’s parents especially touched my heart. Like other parents all over America, they were overfeeding their kids on comfort foods and junk, and you could see the horror on their faces when the doctor told them what they were doing to their health. This isn’t the “Real Housewives of Snobville” reality crap. These are the real people of Huntington, and I like them.

      • penny anemone

        Doug Sheils is just a PR person (former local news reporter) for the hospital. He isn’t actually a “big shot” like Jamie made him out to be. (This is also true of Doug Korstanje – another former local news reporter who now does the commercials for the other big hospital in town – St. Mary’s Medical Center.) I also think their concerns are totally legit – the CDC report didn’t actually call Huntington the unhealthiest city, it was an AP reporter who later came up with that unfortunate description. Huntington is concerned about that title because the CDC data actually comes from southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky too, as well as other parts of WV. It’s not just Huntington’s problem, but rightly or wrongly we get the press for it.
        Anyway, I think they were right to bring that stuff up to Jamie, especially because he wanted them to donate lots of $$ and get on board with him, and acted like an exasperated petulant child. Why not ease their concerns a little and make sure that your show isn’t going to exploit the people you claim you are helping? It is reality tv, after all, not exactly the most scrupulous enterprise. I also believe that the show was scripted to make them look like more villains/enemies for Jamie to vanquish, when they probably really hadn’t been asked to participate prior to that meeting. And (spoiler alert) the hospitals donated tens of thousands of dollars so that the menus could be changed county-wide in the schools, and to fund Jamie’s Kitchen for a year (now called Huntington’s Kitchen.) Plus, the local hospitals and MU Medical School do all kinds of outreach work in the region to help educate people about making healthier choices. Without them, we’d really be screwed.

      • Nathan

        @Julia – Julia it is called “big picture thinking”. True, eating healthy is the root problem, but it isn’t a simple issue to solve. Eating healthier is much more expensive than eating Fast Food, therefore his concerns are very important. Looking out for the business interest is very wise, if higher paying companies are afraid to move into the area many residents won’t be able to afford to make the necessary changes. So in reality the only ignorant person here is, sorry to say…you.

    • James

      My view of West Virginia has actually improved while watching this show, I’m surprised at how diverse and suburban Huntington looks and I know its admitting that I believed the stereotype but this actually helped West Virginia IMO. I have a much more positive view of it now.

    • Gwen

      Isn’t Quantico in West Virginia?

      • Gwen

        Sorry, I mean that in reference to the earlier comment about WV being stereotyped as having fat, stupid people.

      • JLI

        No, Quantico is in VA.

  • Greta

    I’m afraid that Jamie is wasting his time on getting American kids to eat real food. They have been served crap for a long time, thanks to the food industry and ignorant parents. I wish off all my heart that this is a beginning to save American kids from obesity and all deceases that comes with it. Good Luck.

  • Doug

    Actually, I have a MUCH better opinion of WV now than I did before. I like the people, and am surprised at the diversity. So there you go.

    I love Alice. She’s so bitter and funny.

    I kind of feel bad for the food coordination woman. You just know that she’s in a tough spot with Jaime, and can almost see her cringe whenever he starts talking.

    • Tim

      Yeah, its not like the people of WV are different than any other state serving unhealthy food to kids.

      And I agree about my perceptions being better after the show- he’s found many kind, caring, intelligent people along the way.

    • Ellen

      Doug, I completely agree with your comment about West Virginia. To me, this show is giving Huntington a chance for positive national exposure. I’ve enjoyed the children and their parents, the town looks lovely and peaceful, and many of them seem quite willing to listen to Jamie. Rod won me over last week, and we saw this week that Alice is not Cerberus, guarding the cafeteria from Evil Jamie, as the show would like us to believe. These are real people, not those phoney-baloney idiots on those awful reality shows.

  • Doug

    Oh, and did you guys notice what it said on the frozen pizza box? Substitute cheese! I picked a pack of it up on Kroger one day because it was cheap, and put it back down as soon as I saw the ingredients. Number 1? Oil. Not even dairy.

  • HdCreepy

    At a glance it does sounds too easy and “reality TV”, but when you actually look at the lunch options: stale fries versus pasta prepared by one of the most famous chef on the world, I really wasn’t surprised that nobody chose fries. Not to mention they have been eating the same stuff every day, so any change has to be welcomed. Don’t forget these are high school kids, who can make better decision.

  • Ghost

    As a resident I do not disagree about what he is doing. Sometimes we need that public shock of what is going on. Take a look at this state, it is notorious for being over weight and unhealthy, and its more than the CDC says. You may here people talking about losing, or joining yet another program to do so, but they always fail. It seems to me that the people here always want to lose weight but have no clue how, or how to get healthier. I sure as HELL wish someone would have stepped in when I was a kid. Now Im a few monts from turning 30, have high BP and Im diabetic. I raised by a single parent, who did the best that she could, but we had faith in the public school system to teach me also, which is FAIL. I know one thing for sure, if this revolution doesnt take off, my son will NOT eat that crap, I do not want him to end up like me which 5 years ago peaked at 402lbs. Im 100lbs lighter now but still along way from my goal. Seriously my fellow WVians, if you dont like being called fat and unhealthy look in the damn mirror, or look at your blood work, there is a problem here and we all need to wake up. For our childrens sake.

    • thistleandthorn

      Well said, Ghost. Here is proof that there is a willingness to learn, to change, to do things better. Starting now. We all, not just in WV but in the whole USA, need to take a look in the damn mirror, myself included. We are making bad choices with our nutrition, some of us three times a day. We’re smart… we can do better!

    • veronica

      Good for you, Ghost! And thanks for your perspective and insight.

    • CanadaEh

      What I don’t understand, and maybe things are done differently in the US than Canada, but why are parents not packing lunches for their kids? Why are they relying on the school system to feed their kids? Is the cafeteria food free or something? I pack my kids lunches every morning and they take water in their drink bottles (as most kids here do). The schools ask that we not send any junk like chips, cookies or candy and most parents comply.

      • Jess

        I know what you mean Canadaeh. I am in Halifax and my child’s school does not even have a cafeteria. They do have a canteen but nothing unhealthy is offered there, and we get memos sent home periodically about what is not supposed to be put in their lunches.

      • joan

        As a matter of fact, the cafeteria food IS free to children from low-income families. The meals are inexpensive for the kids who are not low-income.
        Obviously quality of the food served in the cafeterias is awful, both in terms of nutrition and taste.
        When I was in grades K-12, it was practically unheard of for a student to bring his/her own lunch. When I was in elementary school, I did have a lunch box and occasionally brought my lunch when the meal they were serving in the cafeteria that day was too gross to eat.
        If Jamie Oliver can help bring nutritious, palatable meals to America’s school kids, more power to him.

      • Cat

        The problem is that the education budget shrinks on a yearly basis. That means the food budget also shrinks and the quality of food goes out the window. My children take their lunch 3 days and buy 2 days that they choose from a meny, we discuss the menu to help them make healthy choices. It starts at home. If you teach them the correct foods to eat, and aren’t too strict about it, they will follow the examples set.

    • Mummy

      Good for you Ghost! People who are convinced they look bad because of the publicity, imagine how stellar your image will be once you have made the huge turn around. I would argue that the publicity you would receive once that happens will be much greater than the publicity gained as a result of being the unhealthiest city. One other thing, Jamie Oliver mortgaged his home several years ago to finance this project: http://www.fifteenshop.net
      Give the guy a break. I’ve been following him for years. He has always been into fresh, healthy food. He went through the same process with the British school system. If you look at all the work he has done for that cause combined with the work of FIFTEEN, is it really so hard to believe he just wants to help?

  • wickEd

    <>

    And succumbing to public blackmail because one person feels the need to make everyone else do/eat same as him is better how?

    • Tarc

      Hmmm. Interesting word choices. Blackmail. The extortion of something from someone else due to a threat to reveal something they’d like to keep hidden. Factually, the dirty little secret was coming out regardless: school are providing disgusting, unhealthy food for kids across the nation that the parents would surely not eat on a bad day. But there was no arm twisting – that was just your guilt over not doing the right thing. You know better. After all, you don’t have to watch the show…

  • topher

    When his t.v. show is gone , it ‘ ll be back to the crap it always was .

    • Abby

      Yeah but hopefully some and a lot of the viewers of the show will try to eat healthier in the future.

    • Fred

      It depends on the public officials – after he did his show in England, the government appointed a commission on school food and it resulted in some pretty big changes in policy – so if the same thing happens in W.V. it WILL make a long-term difference.

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