Food Revolution only trying to help LAUSD
Months ago, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver brought a proposal to the Los Angeles Unified School District. He wanted to shoot the second season of Food Revolution, a show focused on reforming school lunches to be healthier, in Los Angeles schools.
LAUSD said no.
The show is an evolution of Oliverâs British programs such as Jamieâs School Dinners and Jamieâs Ministry of Food, which dealt with repairing unhealthy eating habits at home and at school. Eventually, Oliver decided to create Food Revolution, and traveled to Huntington, West Virginia, an area named âAmericaâs Unhealthiestâ by an Associated Press poll.
Oliver worked with the districtâs cafeterias to produce fresher, healthier food for students. The kids of the Cabell County Schools, a 12,700-student district in Huntington, didnât take kindly to Oliverâs new changes at first, but have since grown to enjoy Oliverâs recipes, according to The Huffington Post.
From there, Los Angeles seemed like a logical choice. After all, the city of angels boasts of the nationâs second-largest school district and serves up 1.2 million meals a day.
But LAUSD stopped the Food Revolution crew in its tracks, saying Â a TV show would be too disruptive.
âWeâre interested in Jamie Oliver the food activist, not Jamie the reality TV star,â Robert Alaniz, district spokesman told the Post. âWeâve invited him to work with our menu committee, but thereâs too much drama, too much conflict with a reality show.â
The first season of the show was rife with drama and conflict over the poor, under-nutritious food being served to kids in the district and what officials werenât doing about it.
On second thought, maybe showing the conflict was the whole point. Yes, Oliverâs criticisms had left a bit of a sore spot with Cabell County Schools in West Virginia, and LAUSD would likely have suffered the same bruises to their reputation. But wouldnât it have been worth it to improve kidsâ diets and bring national attention to the issue of quality of school meals?
That question still hangs in the air as LAUSD seemingly continues to keep the cameras, and the public eye, out of its business.
Luckily for Oliver, he was able to film two weeksâ worth of footage at West Adams Preparatory School, which is run by the organization MLA Partner Schools under contract with LAUSD. After two weeks, however, LAUSD found out and, as promised, kicked out Oliver.
Mike McGalliard, the president of MLA Partner schools, wasnât thrilled about Oliver being kicked out.
âWe arenât happy about it,â McGalliard said. âI told the district, âyou guys are making a big fuss over nothing. Itâs not an expose. Itâs an incredible program.ââ
According to McGalliard, nearly half of the students at West Adams are obese. This is even more upsetting considering the examples he gave of some of the schoolâs regular lunches: chicken nuggets and corn dogs, with raw broccoli as a vegetable side.
Raw broccoli? What average schoolkid is going to eat raw broccoli? Itâs hard to fathom this is being presented as a healthy meal at one of central L.A.âs better schools.
Although LAUSD has done what it can to promote better eating habits at schools, like banning sodas and junk food, a show like Food Revolution would have done more by offering compromises and solutions to the fundamental problem of creating quality school meals on a budget.
More importantly, the show might have inspired schools, students and parents to start caring more. LAUSD very curiously missed an opportunity to take advantage of a national stage.
No one likes being publicly told theyâre doing things wrong and they need to change.
This same issue came up in the first season of the show, of course. Old habits die hard, and the Cabell County School district had issues with Oliverâs techniques, especially when they involved fudging the abysmally-low meal budget. What did this price change entail? For the paying students, it amounted to an increase of 13 cents on average.
LAUSD thinks it has everything under control and there doesnât need to be embarrassment on TV positive change to effect. But considering the national scale of this problem, the district should have had the cojones to say it could use a fresh, radical perspective.
Doing so on TV wouldâve encouraged other districts to face facts about their meals as well. Instead, they kicked, and kept, Oliver out.
Sophia Ruvalcaba, a 17-year-old diabetic student at West Adams Preparatory, said it best:
âHe was just trying to make a healthier meal for us.â
Eddie Kim is a sophomore majoring in print journalism. His column, âFood As Life,â runs Thursdays.