Friday, March 26, 2010

If It Smells Like Chicken...

I caught the new reality series, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution tonight. My mouth is salivating. Forget school children, if I could enjoy the three lunches Jamie prepared for the Huntington elementary school children, I'd be in seventh heaven!

So here are a few take-aways for me:

1. Our public school lunch programs are in series need of an overhaul. No surprise there. The balance is cost versus real food--we all know to eat real food costs more. However, our country also wouldn't be crippled with its present health crisis or the crippling cost of health care (which after this week...well, I'm not even going there) I'm interested to see how Jamie balances this. Can it truly be done?

2. School children who cannot identify a tomato or potato (as seen in tonight's episode) all too clearly indicates serious lack of education/awareness. This put me squarely in Jamie's corner. Especially since they could easily identify chicken nuggets and frozen pizza--which appears to be two staples for many of the young residents of Huntington.

3. The mass of food waste produced each day just in the one elementary school featured--for both Jamie's and the school's meals--was astounding. I thought it interesting that the adults didn't encourage the children to finish their food. A man stood everyday by the trash can and took the children's tray and dumped the left over food. On Jamie's last day, he asked the staff to encourage the children to keep trying the food and many of them cleared their plates. He also really shook things up when he asked for forks and knives to be made available to the children. Both he and the principal had to show the children how to use them. You know that only encouraged the stereotype that people like me have of places like Huntington (one of the most obese cities in the country).

4. The food waste especially hit home to me as I watch middle schoolers every day throw away whole apples, carrots, etc. in the trash can as soon as they purchase their lunch, only because they have to take the fruit/veg to fulfill the lunch requirements, but of course no one can force them to eat it. They are literally charged for the food and then toss what they don't want as soon as they exit the lunch line. This kills me, in light of so much starvation in this world, as well as the cost to the parents who are paying for the lunches, but unaware of the waste. Which brings me to....

5. In this week's episode, Jamie found himself in trouble with the lunch staff because one of his lunches didn't include two starches--the national school requirement. He was serving chicken and rice with a vegetable (hmm, that's exactly what I serve at home) How many times in the lunchroom where I work have I watched kids pile on greasy pizza or mac-n-cheese with so much cheese it flows over the side, only to be told they have to take a dinner roll or muffin as well to fulfill the two-starch rule? Meanwhile, I'm watching numerous "muffin" bellies hanging over the waistline of jeans. The school lunch requirements, as pointed out by Jamie, are 15 years out of date.

6. And finally...I got a real chuckle out of the lunch ladies themselves. These "beautiful girls," as Jamie called them, were like so many lunch ladies I've known--sorta rough around the edges, hard workers, and rule-followers to a fault. And they DON'T like anyone messing with their kitchen (one in particular brought Jamie to tears)! These women don't get the respect they deserve, feeding our children day in, day out. But it also seems obvious to me that something has got to be done to re-tool this system. It's one lean, mean school lunch machine (well, maybe not so lean).

Confessional Time: I really like the mashed potatoes at Cityside Middle School. But I skip the bright yellow gelatin-like gravy. And mostly I just eat the salad--only that's mostly iceberg lettuce...and then there's those breaded barbecue chicken chips...but after tonight's episode, I don't think I'll ever touch a round, finger-size "smells like chicken" poppit as long as I live.

He's got endless obstacles to overcome and I'm not sure he can change the country's entire school lunch system, but I'm rooting for Jamie Oliver and his brassy "Breh-ish" love affair with food which cannot be ordered under "P" in the yellow pages or purchased from your local grocer's frozen food bulk aisle.

No comments:

Post a Comment