Why Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is destined to fail

Snapshot from the USDA Menu Planner for Healthy School Meals

JAMIE OLIVER”S FOOD REVOLUTION IS INSPIRING, and I surely want him to succeed, but I have to wonder if he can have any real impact.

Educate people about healthy food? Yeah! Teach people better eating habits? Sure! Improving our abysmal school lunch menus? Maybe! But change the way our country eats? Nope. Not a chance.


1. The KFC Double Down

The KFC Double Down is a sandwich made of two pieces of fried chicken filled with bacon, cheese, and “the Colonel’s Sauce”.  Yes, you read that correctly, no bun. Instead, two pieces of fried chicken. But don’t worry about all those lonely buns, they’re being donated to food banks around the nation. How touching.

KFC must have done market research to determine this “sandwich” fills a need. How can Jamie Oliver begin to change the eating habits of people who are willing to eat a Double Down (most likely paired with potato wedges and a soda) that contains 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1380 mg of sodium. (Just in case you’re wondering, the daily recommended allowance is 65 grams of fat and 2400 mg sodium.)

2. EatFreely.org

I like to think of EatFreely.org as the Anti-Food Revoultion. It’s a lame marketing campaign for Hot Pockets, the premise being that Hot Pockets are great to eat anywhere and no one — not the government, not the crotchety old lady next door — can tell you how or where to eat. Yeah! Freedom! Patriotism! We’re Americans, dammit, and if we want to eat crap, we’re going to do it whenever, where ever, and however we want.

Hot Pockets may just be the perfect Anti-Food. Here’s a sample of their ingredients:

Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket contains potassium chloride, which is also an ingredient in fertilizer. Delicious, delicious fertilizer. Yum.

The Meatballs and Mozzerella Hot Pocket is made with “Cooked Italian Style Meatballs” made from Pork, Water, Textured Vegetable Protein [Soy Protein Concentrate, Caramel Color], Seasoning [Salt, Spices, Paprika, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavor, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate], Breadcrumbs [Enriched Flour (Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Corn Syrup, Sugar, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Soybean, Cottonseed), Salt, Yeast, Soy Flour, Whey, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Propionate (Preservative)], Salt, Sodium Tripolyphosphate. Just like Grandma used to make!

Even though this is a marketing vehicle, it seems to represent a real point of view that is shared by a subset of our culture, including the makers of “food” and their marketing teams. As long as people are willing to join “movements” like this and eat crap like Hot Pockets, Jamie is destined to fail.

3. USDA School Lunch Guidelines

Watching Food Revolution got me curious about school lunch guidelines. In perusing the Menu Planner for Healthy School Meals, I found an interesting tidbit about milk choices. It seems that in a menu consisting of breaded chicken patty on a roll (with lettuce and tomato), potato wedges, and cherry cobbler, the USDA recommends cutting down on fat by eliminating whole milk for lower fat varieties.

So this chicken patty, which, if it comes from Tyson Food Service, contains 15 grams of fat, 45 mg of cholesterol, and 570 mg of sodium, “provides 2.00 oz. equivalent meat and 1 serving of bread alternate for the Child Nutrition Meal Pattern Requirements.” And call me crazy, but isn’t a “potato wedge” just a fancy French fry?

So the fat in the milk – which contrary to popular belief doesn’t make you fat – should be eliminated to make room for the fat in the chicken patty, potato wedges, and cobbler. “Here kids, drink this skim milk with your cobbler. It’ll keep you healthy.” I wonder if the cherries in the cobbler count as fruit?

Good luck, Jamie.

3 comments for “Why Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is destined to fail

  1. Annalise
    April 13, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Yes, of COURSE you would already be watching Jamie Oliver. I agree: the show can make us feel virtuous: kind of like watching “Clean House” if we’re not that messy. We can probably continue to feel virtuous even as suspending disbelief with our own eating habits. I know I often can erase my memory of having eaten fast food in a pinch, or fed it to my kids on the road.

    “Eat Freely” reminds me of the commercials sponsored by the Beverage Association that feature a mother expressing her outrage at taxes on juice and soda, talking about her “budget.” Never mind they are unnecessary beverages, in the end.

    Great blog! Happy to be linked into your take on these things…


  2. cat
    April 13, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks, Annalise, and thank you for the comments.

    You’re right about how easy it is to gloss over our not-so-great eating habits. It’s all about making the small changes… and not eating Double Downs!

  3. Christiane
    June 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    “KFC must have done market research to determine this “sandwich” fills a need.”

    The “need” it fills is KFC’s own. The negative press (which they engineered) makes almost everything else on their menu look healthy in comparison. It allows people to vilify a very specific item, rather than a lifestyle of poor choices.

    Getting our generation to change is unlikely, but getting the next one to change is very possible, which is what makes Oliver so brilliant. He’s lifted the curtain and exposed the wizard to millions of children. Ideally, they will grow up questioning their options… and hopefully making, nay, demanding healthier choices.

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