Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Vive LA Revolution!

So clearly the idiot rioters of East Belfast did not read my blog post yesterday, as they had a second night of gun totin' fun last night. Joyous. Can we not just send them all off to some remote field somewhere and let them have at each other? Hubby was keeping an eye on the action as it unfolded via the Interwebz last night and stumbled upon a Slugger O'Toole article which suggested that one of the reasons behind all this crap is some kind of underground leadership contest between East Belfast loyalists. So essentially people are having their property damaged, people are being shot and residents are afraid to stay in their own home… all because of the overinflated egos of some knuckle-dragging wank-stains? Fantastic. Could they not consider cage fighting instead or something, so they only harm each other? Why I oughta…

Speaking of egos have you been watching Jamie's Food Revolution Hits Hollywood? Not that Jamie has the big ego (well…) but that Superintendent dude, Ramon whatshisface, was a complete prick. The final episode of the 6-part series was shown here last night and I was glad to see that progress of some description was finally being made because the first 5 episodes generally consisted of Jamie being shunned in various ways.

I get that nobody likes to be criticised but did the Los Angeles Unified School District not kinda realise that by repeatedly squealing, "oh no Jamie, we're not letting you film in any of our schools or even talk to students about their school lunches - go away!", it made it blatently obvious that they thought they had something to hide? And it's a normal human reaction that when someone refuses to show you the truth about something, you automatically imagine that it's the worst possible situation, which means people were probably assuming the food was even worse than it really was by the end anyway. In fact by the time they withdrew all filming rights, even in the school that wanted to work with Jamie, they just looked petty and like the children's health was their lowest priority. Way to go guys!

Luckily this new Superintendent dude took over the reins while Jamie was there and he was all, "Yeah, let's make changes, but we'll start off really slowly, ok?" In the end the only accomplishment really was that the guy was planning to withdraw sugary flavoured milk from the schools. Granted it's something positive but it's not exactly on the level of the things Jamie accomplished here with his School Dinners show or in the last Food Revolution series filmed in Huntington, West Virginia, which is a real shame.

They showed discussions they had with students in West Adams High School (the school that wanted to work with Jamie) and it was astounding that almost all of the kids knew someone who was suffering with health problems caused by their diet or obesity. The number of people who had diabetes was crazy. Most of the students were really upset talking about it all and some of them were clearly in a bit of a panic about their own future, which is so sad at a time in their life when they should feel fit, healthy, invincible and ready to take on the world.

I mean, let's face facts: we live in a world where convenience and cost are the most important factors in a lot of our decisions. People are juggling so many stresses these days that they're too busy and exhausted to start making 3 meals a day from scratch and even if they had the time and energy to get down with the fresh food vibe, it's often so expensive that it makes it unrealistic. I mean, in Asda at the moment, the cheapest fresh chicken breast fillets I can buy (not organic, not free range, just your bog-standard, own-brand stuff) are £3 for 2. However I could buy a packet of turkey drummers for £1. If your household income is low or you have to feed fussy children or you don't have the time to start chopping and peeling and stirfrying when you get home from work, you're probably going to just go for the drummers. Baking tray, oven, timer, done and all for a third of the price!

However it's often said that your health is your wealth, so maybe a lack of time, energy or money isn't a good enough excuse really. And it's definitely not a good enough excuse when it comes to school meals. You can't criticise a country for becoming increasingly overweight at younger and younger ages one minute and then feed them deep fried oven chips and cheeseburgers for lunch 5 days a week the next. Junk food is created to be addictive, so if the kids are getting it at school every day, they start to want it at home too. And most parents just want to make their kids happy, so a lot of the time they'll end up giving in and feeding their kids more junk for dinner. Eventually it gets to the stage where mum goes to the effort of making a proper homecooked meal with loads of vegetables and pasta and proper meat and the kids don't even want to try it because, dude, where's all the salt and the breadcrumbs and the grease? Ah needz mah fix!

It has to end somewhere and that's why I totally support what Jamie's Food Revolution is trying to do. Okay so Jamie himself might grate on some people but what he's doing is not just a good thing, it's downright necessary. I mean, there was one scene in last night's show where he invited a bunch of local chefs for lunch and then sat them each down to a different school meal as served in the district. One guy picked up his plate of congealed goop (I don't even know what it was supposed to be) and turned it at a 90°
angle - not a single bit fell off the plate, it just stuck to it. What is that going to do to the digestive system of a child?! Yikes!

Then later they showed an example from the new menu that West Adams High would be serving next year, which was some kind of roast vegetable quesadilla made with spinach tortillas. I'm not fully convinced from the students' reactions that they completely loved it, even though they said they did, but I thought it looked delicious! Actually it looked better than our canteen food at work - maybe that should be Jamie's next project. But yeah, there was no comparison between the two dishes. Congealed, sticky, unidentifiable goop or something colourful, vegetable-laden and tasty. Hmmm, choices, choices…

Speaking of tasty, the headmaster of West Adams High was also extremely yummy-looking. If my headmaster had looked like that I probably wouldn't have skipped assembly so much. But I think it was his passion that made him more attractive - he genuinely wants what is best for those kids and these days, with so much red tape and bureaucracy and report-writing and budget restrictons, it's rare to find someone who has had doors slammed in their face repeatedly and yet still has enthusiasm and the willingness to improve things rather than just get by on the minimum requirements. Go fit headmaster!

I hope school meals do improve over time. I would hate to think that one day I might be sending my child to school every day, having made every effort to ensure their health and wellbeing at home, just for the people responsible for their education to feed them junk like it's acceptable and normal rather than an occasional treat. Some of these kids in Jamie's series genuinely thought that honey came from bears… I do not want my child to be so ignorant about what they're fueling their bodies with. So, the way I see it, go Jamie go!

If you happen to live in the USA, do sign Jamie's petition online - there is power in numbers and this is something that really can help kids get the best start in life.

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