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A Crusader for Healthier School Menus

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Suzana Megles
Message Suzana Megles

I have probably heard of Chef Jamie Oliver before but never had seen him in
"action." That changed. Today he was featured on "Jamie Oliver's Food
Revolution." On this program he was trying to impress on us the terrible
incidences of childhood obesity- consequences of too many processed foods
and not enough whole foods, veggies, and fruits.

One family featured were all obese- the mother, the father, and the son
who at 12 was close to becoming diabetic. After a visit to the doctor's, they
finally realized the terrible implications of diabetes, especially in the obese-
blindness, loss of limbs, etc. and earlier mortality. The parents were now
determined to make important changes to their eating lifestyles. Jamie
even took the 12 year-old under his wing for awhile, and together they made
chicken chow mein stir fry. He joked with him as they enjoyed the product
of their cooking lesson and said that the next time he was with his girlfriend
they should forego pizza and instead impress her with his chicken chow mein
stif fry.

Chef Jamie is a natural teacher. He shows exuberance in his delivery and he knows how to talk to even the little children as well. What a tough sell, though, to change the bad eating habits of children as well as of so many of us, for that matter. He knows he has to start at ground level.
One day he brought with him an assortment of veggies for the little kids to
identify. Imagine- they couldn't identify even the simple ones like tomatoes or
potatoes --let alone broccoli, eggplants, and beets.

In one school, where he was invited to implement new healthy school lunch
menus, he first assembled the parents and the children in the school yard.
There he had the children hold a large plastic tarp - at least 10 feet long and
5 feet wide. Into that he had his assistants pour gallons and gallons of
chocolate milk, which he noted contained vast amounts of sugar.

Into the chocolate milk was "dumped" chili hamburgers, french fries, and
nacho cheese chips. Of course, the mixture looked anything but appetizing,
and all those were school children's favorites. I could not help thinking that
there was nothing "green" in that mixture. How could it be healthy?

He also had carted in a truck load of fat in which he stood -inviting them
to feel it. He said that was about the amount of fat consumed by the school
children during the year. I'm sure that made an impression on the teachers,
parents, and school children alike. I hope it also made a like impression on
the TV audience watching this Saturday afternoon special.

He was allowed to create menus for the school cafeteria for a week. One
day they made beef faitias. He was surprised that forks and knives were
not allowed for use by the 6 year -olds. Of course, he told them - that's part
of the educational process. They should be shown how to use them. And
the cafeteria staff and principal allowed this "experiment" and it worked out

Not everything went smoothly, and perhaps there was more food waste then
usual, but by week's end the principal noted that even though the food bills
were higher than usual, they felt that Jamie should stay another week to try
to incorporate more healthy menus for the children. He felt gratified and grateful.
This humble man whose only interest seems to be to teach children how to eat
healthy knows that it is often a hard sell but someone has to do it. He also
knows that changes will have to be made one school at a time.

One time he wanted to show a small circle of youngsters how some of their
processed foods are made. He produced a full chicken - cut it up, telling them
about the choice parts, and then they were left with the carcass. He proceeded
to cut that up into pieces and then placed it into a food processor. To that he
added grain and flour and then made patties out of the mixture - covered it with
bread crumbs and fried them. He asked who wanted to taste one? Amazingly,
they all raised their hands! Failed experiment. He thought they would flinch
at the "carcass" nuggets but hadn't. I certainly wouldn't have tasted one.

Next week he is suppose to tackle Huntington's High School. I hope not to
miss it.

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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)
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