Recently at Reason.tv: The Case Against Jamie Oliver

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In February, celebrity British chef Jamie Oliver scooped up the prestigious TED Prize, awarded for his crusade "against obesity and other diet related diseases" and for having "pressured the UK government to invest $1 billion to overhaul school lunches to improve nutrition." Upon receiving the award, he warned America that it was committing national suicide through food. In an attempt to recreate his British school lunch campaign in the United States, Oliver is launching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a reality show that attempts to overhaul the school lunch regimen in America's unhealthiest city. 

But while food nags like Oliver and First Lady Michelle Obama are surely right that Americans need to eat better, is he right that our eating habits are killing us? And do we need a massive budget increase to introduce fresh foods and food education to our schools?

Reason.tv's Michael C. Moynihan talked to food blogger and journalist Ed Bruske and Reason senior editor Katherine Mangu-Ward about school lunch reform, whether more government money could slim student waistlines, the United States Department of Agriculture's role in making kids fat, and whether young American really are, as Oliver claims, living shorter lives their parents and grandparents.

Approximalely 7 minutes. Written by Moynihan. Shot and edited by Dan Hayes. Production assistant, Joshua Swain.

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  1. Watched the show this weekend. I’m happy to say my kids eat breakfast at home and I pack their lunches every day. And I’m sure it costs less that $2.70 per meal. I think he’d have better results if he showed the parents and kids how to make their own lunches.

    1. I always ate breakfast at home and brought my own lunch to school because my parents couldn’t afford to buy it. My rich friends did the same so I didn’t feel bad or embarrassed about it. We got a full half hour to eat while the others spent half of their time waiting in a line. The Oliver show seems to imply that brown-bagging-it is forbidden in that school district. I didn’t see a single child in that show who had brought his own food from home. The feeling I was left with is that the state controls the food, and Oliver wants a hand in controlling the state.

      1. The feeling I was left with is that the state controls the food, and Oliver wants a hand in controlling the state.

        Exactly. Oliver knew his audience, and pandered to them like a ten-dollar whore: “You, Mom and Dad, sitting there on the couch, a combined 600 pounds, shoveling mac-and-cheese and fried chicken into your faces…it’s not your fault that your kids are fat and throw out the healthy carrots and apples on the lunch trays! It’s the SCHOOLS’ fault! Look at what the SCHOOLS are serving your poor, defenseless, helpless urchins! Look, the SCHOOLS are forcing them to pick up the strawberry milk and dump the apples!”

        God forbid anyone pause the TiVo for five minutes, haul their Brobdingnagian bulk into the kitchen, and make their own children a sack lunch.

  2. I’m finding it hard to understand the point of this video, unless it is simply to alienate foodies (such as myself) and lefties as much as possible. Appearing to defend McDonalds, fat, sodium, processed foods, and childhood obesity is not gonna warm people to the libertarian movement.

    I suggest that you stop poo-pooing legitimate liberal causes such as the healthier foods movement, and instead show how markets can work in their favor. For example, show how chain restaurants with healthier options are growing in marketshare. Show them how the same distribution system which has historically shoveled greasy, unhealthy food to the masses, can also be the fastest way to spread healthy food to the masses.

    I realize this misses much of the point of the video, but you sorta asked for that by punctuating it with scenes of Moynihan chomping on an oh-so-delicious, heart-disease-causing McDonald’s burger.

    1. You’ll still get assholes like Spurlock who did a movie about eating at McD’s, apparently without realizing they have salads now.

    2. I’m finding it hard to understand the point of this video, unless it is simply to alienate foodies (such as myself) and lefties as much as possible. Appearing to defend McDonalds, fat, sodium, processed foods, and childhood obesity is not gonna warm people to the libertarian movement.

      I suggest that you stop poo-pooing legitimate liberal causes such as the healthier foods movement, and instead show how markets can work in their favor. For example, show how chain restaurants with healthier options are growing in marketshare. Show them how the same distribution system which has historically shoveled greasy, unhealthy food to the masses, can also be the fastest way to spread healthy food to the masses.

      I realize this misses much of the point of the video, but you sorta asked for that by punctuating it with scenes of Moynihan chomping on an oh-so-delicious, heart-disease-causing McDonald’s burger.

      Even if one does show such market alternatives, as you suggest, how does this change the fact that MANY foodies are actively trying to force their food choices on the masses?

      This, to me, is the point of such articles, not any cloaked argument that ‘fast food’ is ‘healthy’.

    3. I fully concur with your assessment. When you take the position that “it’s not a problem” – a potentially valid position, I might add – don’t be surprised when people don’t want your input on how to address the problem.

      And when you take the position, “here’s how I think we should address this serious problem”, don’t be surprised when people ignore you after you then trivialize the problem you were saying was serious.

    4. Burgers cause heart disease like guns cause people to die. Someone has to be pulling the trigger…or in this case, the wrapper.

      Unhealthy food doesn’t cause heart disease. People eating a shit-ton of unhealthy food, to the exclusion of all else, does.

      That’s the video’s point. Five billion dollars added to the public school budgets comes with absolutely zero guarantees that school kids will stop eating a shit-ton of unhealthy food.

      Oliver made his own case against himself, when he told stories about schools in “townships in South Africa that served healthier foods in their schools.” Really, no joke? Soweto public schools, serving healthy lunches? Who knew. I guess you don’t need an injection of extra tax dollars to do it after all, then, huh?

      1. My understanding, from watching the show, was that his changes have to be budget-neutral.

    5. agreed. They’re attacking something that isn’t the enemy. There’s this fascinating scene in Oliver’s show where he realizes how complicated the USDA’s food requirements are, and talks about how much easier it is to meet the regulatory hurdles with processed food. And then another where, because he’s required to provide two breads, he has to throw some burger buns on a plate for the kids. When you trivialize the problem and attack Oliver, rather than pointing this stuff out and expanding on it, you look like a bunch of assholes and you lose allies.

  3. As an artist, I am constantly struggling to find ways to challenge the limits of my chosen medium, which is sperm, and push my audience toward a higher level of both cognition and meta cognition–to see, in other words, the art beyond the art, the way the art steps beyond being an object of “art,” so to speak, and invokes a definition that calls into question the very fabric of life and existence and our species’ interaction with the physical and emotional world. For example, my last piece, “Jerking Off On The Orange Line,” was intended to push the boundaries of physical expression and inspire self-reflection among the three Catholic high school girls at the end of the car, whose expectation of a Metro ride without the opportunity to witness another human masturbating was challenged–I think, for the better. Its follow-up piece, “Running Pantless Through the Station,” was a breathless exploration of the nexus where the tyranny of law enforcement intersects with the vibrant pulse of individuality and liberal expression. “My Cock In Her Sleeping Mouth,” perhaps one of my most controversial pieces, explored the biological, social, physical, and emotional consequences of one-sided fellatio, and often misunderstood expression of deep, abiding affection. Its follow-up, “Ejaculate on Her Forehead,” takes this a step further, calling into question the ideas of what it means to “own” ones own skin. Symbolically, in turning her white with my love, I am exploring complex issues of race and challenging my audience to question their own biases. prejudgments, and narrow world views.

  4. McD’s “delicious”?? You’re sick man!

  5. Not very good at all. Just like most of “Reason Saves Cleveland”.

    What are you trying to do? Attack Jamie Oliver’s proposals? His methods? Make the case that government subsidies are making a valid concern worse? Deny that the concern itself is valid?

    You succeed at making none of those cases. What actually comes across is: Jamie Oliver bad! Government bad! Junk food good when government and schoolmarms say it’s bad! But junk food bad when government and schoolmarms making it worse! Because I say so!

    These would be much improved by deciding whether the point (1) Serious cultural/political investigative journalism, or (2) Snarky and clever comedy. You simply cannot do both at the same time.

    1. I’m watching Jamie Oliver’s show right now, and it’s very well done. IMHO, he should be applauded instead of attacked. The video above just makes Reason looks like a bunch of out-of-touch naysayers.

  6. I’m just not sure really what this says. I can’t tell if at the end you’re arguing against Jamie Oliver or agreeing with him.

    It almost seems like your saying “Yeah, he has some valid points. but you know, they’re a little unrealistic. And plus there’s all those other reasons for childhood obesity. So…ummmm….yeah.”

    And the burger as a device….Is that supposed to really stick it to him or something? hahaha.

  7. For the folks who apparently missed the intent of the video despite the efforts of the producers to spell it out for you in clear easy to follow instructions:

    Jamie Oliver has forced the government to hand him tax dollars to “fix” the food given out at schools in Britain, and there is no scientific evidence that shows that his “healthier foods” have either improved health in the students or scholastic achievement. Not to mention the fact that his meals aren’t necessarily any healthier than what he rails against. As Baylen Linnekin wrote last week-

    The current issue of his magazine Jamie (Feb./Mar. 2010) recommends several school lunch recipes the magazine bills as “wholesome meals to take to school.” The magazine’s suggested meal for Thursday is a tuna Waldorf pita with hot vanilla milk, an oaty biscuit, and a banana. According to the nutrition information provided in Jamie, this youngster’s lunch contains an astonishing 1,183 calories, 55 grams of fat (20 of them saturated), and 65 grams of sugar. That’s 73 calories, 12 grams of fat (11.5 saturated), and 3 grams of sugar more than the same student would get from eating both a McDonald’s hamburger Happy Meal (hamburger, fries, Sprite) and a Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal (McNuggets, fries, Sprite).

    Unsurprisingly, this “wholesome” lunch by Oliver falls well outside accepted dietary norms. The USDA, for example, recommends a moderately active 9-13 year-old child average 1,900 calories per day. Even without breakfast or dinner factored in, Oliver’s tuna Waldorf pita lunch accounts for 62 percent of an adolescent’s recommended calories for the entire day. But don’t take the USDA’s word for it: Oliver himself recommends that “a lunchtime school meal should provide a growing child with one third of their daily nutritional intake.”

    Oliver is a classic example of what’s wrong with the agri-intellectuals. They sound great as advocates for improving our relationship between health and the food we eat, but when they attempt to make policy to affect this change it comes out as fascist garbage that any sane person who believes in even the slightest bit of personal liberty should find abhorrent and misguided.

    1. Take a look at this article:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/educ…..ners-meals

      1. Diane,

        The article you linked was discussed earlier, and there was a troubling stat which appears to dilute or negate the results Oliver is touting-“But the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society also heard that the poorest pupils ? those who are eligible for free school meals ? did not seem to benefit. Instead it was mainly children from more middle class homes who saw their scores boosted after Oliver’s junk food ban was implemented.”

        Since it’s poor kids who are primarily affected by his “no bad food” movement, the statistics show little to zero improvement. What’s worse is that you have increased disparity thanks to Oliver. Is this your proof?

    2. Bravo. I had no problem getting the point of the video, all right, but would say that it was too good-natured against the Food Gestapo that considers kiddie breakfasts and lunches a “public” problem.

      I saw almost all of Jamie Oliver’s TV special last week. In between his gorge-raising blubbering and wheezing, I kept listening for him to lay the blame for what children choose to eat squarely where it belongs: on the doorsteps of the people who choose to bring said children into this world. Nope. Never. Not once. Funny how nobody ever goes there, not Michelle Obama, not Jamie Oliver, not PBS, not nobody.

      The government has never been able to, cannot, and never will be able to fix bad or indifferent parenting. Never. Ever. No matter how much money or propaganda they stuff into the trough.

      Children who are expected to eat fruits, vegetables, low-fat, low-sugar, unprocessed and healthy foods from their very earliest days do not turn into the fat tubs of shyte that were profiled on Oliver’s show. Children who are ALSO expected to walk or bike reasonable distances to school, and expected by their parents to participate in some sports activity, do not turn into fat tubs of shyte. Children who are fed chicken fingers and Cheezy Poofs just to get them to shut up and not present their breeders with any challenges…surprise, surprise, will choose chicken fingers and Cheezy Poofs. And children whose parents allow them unlimited computer and TV time, with no activity, are surprise, soft and flabby, regardless of the size of the school food budget.

      There’s no Constitutional proviso for feeding kids as part of their basic education, anyway. No matter what schools feed kids, someone, whether it’s Oliver or Oprah or Mo-Bama or Islamic immigrants or Hasidic parents bitching about how there’s no halal or kosher offerings on the menu, or some Munchhausen-by-Proxy shrieker demanding that their precious widdle darling never come within 30 feet of a whiff of peanuts, is going to complain. Why not get schools out of the food business altogether? Hell, let’s go further than that, and eliminate ANY public liability for the personal choices people make to have children?

      1. I think I’m in love with you.

  8. The problem with the discussion of food is the vast amounts of misinformation and “common nonsense” that exists on the subject.

    People construe “homecooked” meals to be some bastion of health because it was made with mother’s love, but the body doesn’t look at mashed potatoes with butter any differently than it does french fries.

    Watching Oliver’s show demonstrated some of the food nonsense, such as his harping on the “ingredients” of the processed foods. The nonsense that if it sounds “chemical” it’s gotta be bad is unfortunately very common. Also, I was amazed at his rejection of the use of gloves in the food preparation. His notion that gloves don’t prevent the spread of germs missed the point that what one is often trying to prevent is the spread of ONE’S OWN germs.

    I applaud his passion in teaching people how he feels they should eat, but food is an enormously subjective preference, and the reality is that most will not change and inevitably, foodies like Oliver will use the government to impose their ideas on the masses.

    1. Oliver’s point is that cooking food from raw state keeps out the chemicals and preservatives. Many kids are sensitive to these additives. Many parents dont even realize it.

      Oliver was criticizing our government for their food guidelines. It is silly to require two breads in every lunch.

      1. Oliver’s point is that cooking food from raw state keeps out the chemicals and preservatives. Many kids are sensitive to these additives. Many parents dont even realize it.

        This is the kind of misinformation I was mentioning. The “chemicals and additives” and “allergies” arguments are weak and targets those who have the least amount of understanding of nutrition and human physiology.

        Manufacturers are required by law to list every ingredient they use in the preparation of the product and many of these “additives” sound non-food like, but in fact are simply food derived ingredients.

        Nature doesn’t have to list all the ingredients that go into the foods that occur naturally, but if one were to list all the known compounds that exist in even the most basic of vegetables it would make the list on the processed foods seem trivial.

  9. I have never heard anyone call McDonald’s food “delicious”. I am beginning to think that people in this country have become too lazy to fix food. When I was a kid, a fast food meal was a treat that we got every two weeks, not a main staple of our diet. Also the school cooks actually cooked the food. Now it is just reheated. There is nothing wrong with spending money on school food. I would much rather see it spent on that than other things that dont matter. Please stop working against someone who is trying to help our kids. It is really counter productive.

    1. I have never heard anyone call McDonald’s food “delicious”.

      I love the taste of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, but not as much as a Whopper.

  10. Boy, did you guys miss the boat:

    1) We know school lunches don’t cause childhood obesity, because the childhood obesity epidemic starts long before kids get to school. One of the main causes? The baby formula filled with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that the Federal government encourages mothers to feed their children through the WIC program.

    2) When sodas w/ HFCS has been removed from schools, student obesity rates have stopped rising, while continuing to rise in schools that still have HFCS-sodas. (BTW, HFCS is more expensive than the world price of sugar, which isn’t as bad for us, and less expensive than US-produced sugar. US tariffs guarantee that HFCS is the preferred sweetener in most processed foods, because its the cheapest.)

    3) HFCS is just one of the worst types of carbohydrates causing obesity in America, but all carbs have the same type of effect, just in different degree. And the USDA not only recommends a carb-based diet, but it also subsidizes carbs as the foundation of almost all our foods, including animal protein (corn-fed & soy-fed beef, chicken, etc.).

    4) The documentary movie “Fathead” proved that you can eat an all fast-food diet and still lose weight as well as improving all your other health metrics – by eating less than 100 grams of carbs per day.

    5) “Healthy Choice” frozen meals aren’t healthy at all. They’re largely composed of carbs, and their desserts are sweetened w/ HFCS.

    6) It would be trivially easy to come up with cheap healthy meals that kids would love to eat & that would help them avoid obesity. Bacon & eggs is one obvious example that comes readily to mind. A dozen free-range eggs can be had for $2.00 retail, probably less if bought wholesale & in bulk, but let’s start w/ that. Assume that one dozen eggs could feed 6 kids. That’s $.33 per kid. Assume that adding a serving of bacon doubles the cost, that brings it up to $.66 per kid. That leaves $2 for labor to cook, serve, and clean up, all coming in at less than the $2.70 cited as the average school lunch cost in your video. Similar results could be had w/ hamburgers done protein-style (i.e., wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun); In-and-Out Burger sells them retail for about $2.70 each, but I’m sure they could be made more cheaply by a non-profit school cafeteria.

    1. I knew this topic would bring out the HFCS crowd.

      HFCS is not the cause of our obesity rates, nor is it more harmful than other simple sugars.

      1. Perhaps you can attribute to members of the HFCS crowd that we don’t believe price fixing corn, subsidizing the corn industry, or supporting a mass-food-industry oligarchy is a sensible use of government. Just to be complete.

        1. Perhaps you can attribute to members of the HFCS crowd that we don’t believe price fixing corn, subsidizing the corn industry, or supporting a mass-food-industry oligarchy is a sensible use of government. Just to be complete.

          I am in agreement concerning the subsidy issue, but the “HFCS is evil” meme crosses over to all political ideologies. It is the boogeyman of the day.

      2. HFCS is vastly more harmful than glucose, if you understand the biochemistry:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

      3. Where have you been? HFCS IS KILLING US!!!!!

  11. This Ted guy is killing me.

  12. Nevermind nutrition. I ahve a hard time really getting ticked at anyone that says school lunches need to be better. School lunches are DISGUSTING. Gross, awful stuff. Inedible when I was in school, and I am not a picky eater. We can argue about whether throwing money at it is the answer, but I have to sympathize with the cause.

  13. You have so missed the point! When our schools follow the guidelines of the USDA (Dept. of AGRICULTURE??????), there’s the first problem. Where are the people who truly understand nutrition and what humans need for health????? I bless Jaimie and his courage to speak up and make Americans aware and now it’s our turn to be accountable. What are you afraid of….CHANGE?

  14. Fast food is cheap to make and highly profitable. The fat, sugar and salt are all highly appetizing and often hard to resist. However there is no doubt that our national diet is out of whack. To try and argue that “no-one” eats only fast food is simply denying the reality. Sure, very few people are eating breakfast, lunch & dinner at Mickey D’s (there are some though!). The problem is when it is a frozen Jimmy Dean sandwich for breakfast, Lunchables or Hot Pockets for lunch and a supermarket lasagna for dinner. The point being, that the more processed food we eat – from a drive through window or a supermarket freezer – the less healthy we become.

    It wasn’t too long ago when families sat down together and prepared a simple meal with fresh ingredients. We were healthier and happier and I would argue that those are some of the American family values we should be fighting for.

    We’ve let our lifestyles take over and lost what is important and it is killing us. Stress, poor diet – that is the new reality. Just look at all the commercials for heartburn meds, cholesterol meds, anti-depressants on TV these days!

    The simple truth is that fresh food and produce tastes better and makes you feel better. You have more energy, better concentration and focus and you’re just a happier person in general. It is not any more expensive but, yes, it does take a little more work and spending some quality time together as a family.

    If Jamie Oliver is attempting to show us what we have lost along the way and help us get the nation fighting fit then I can see no reason why anyone should be angry or upset about that.

    He is trying to help our kids and the only people with anything to lose if he succeeds are the ones who make massive profits by peddling inferior nutrition. They can hide behind “USDA” guidelines as much as they want – heck, they lobbied to get these guidelines just the way they wanted them!

    The science is simple to comprehend: You put junk in, you get junk out.

    So you have to ask what is better? Farm fresh or factory fresh – I know which side I’m on.

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