Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Please take the time to watch this.


Ronald Rabenold said...

Sounds like good stuff; I wish more people would be interested in supporting the Small Family Farm...thanks...We are trying to cultivate the same sorts of things here in Carbon County, Eastern PA...
Check us out at culturedcarboncounty.blogspot.com/

ostman said...

School food is amazing... in a frightening way. Every day there are students whose entire meals (both from the cafeteria and home packed) are prepackaged items.

Carol said...

Big fat waste of money. Jamie Oliver wields no power. That TED talk was a piece of shit. Old news. Why they gave him $100,000 to set up a web site for people to sign an online petition is beyond me. Ridiculous waste of money that will accomplish NOTHING.

Beau said...

While I'll admit that I know next to nothing about Jamie Oliver, or the award that he apparently won, I feel very strongly that the issue he's preaching about is very real, and well past the critical stage. So for me, it's more an issue of the message and not the messenger.

Since food has become "cool", and chefs who practice their art with it have become celebrities, they have become the flag wavers for these causes. In our society, fame equals credibility, and if this video made only 5% of the viewers take the next step and do something to reduce the obesity crisis, then I'd consider it an overwhelming success, even if Jamie Oliver's pockets were padded in the process. There sure as hell has been more a lot more spent on infinitely less important causes.

So I'd offer kudos first to Oliver, and then to Chef Little, for using a little bit of their celebrity to champion a cause that desperately needs someone to bang a drum for it.

The rest of us need to get off our collective asses, and do the actual legwork, that only large blocs of people can, that result in a change in the policies and food systems that have gotten us where we currently are.

ostman said...

"Ridiculous waste of money that will accomplish NOTHING." - Carol


I'm not naive enough to think that the TED Prize funds by themselves will change the world, but there needs to be someone to step up to the plate and start the education process.

Don't underestimate the need for something like this; school food is in a sad state, and becoming more so quickly. Both lunches served and those packed from home are becoming more and more a collection of prepackaged, processed…

I was going to say "food," but that would be too generous.

No, the TED prize won't singlehandedly resolve the issue, but I salute Oliver and TED for not sitting by and allowing it (presentation of junk to students) to be unchallenged.

Chef Andrew Little said...

WOW. Thank you to everyone that commented on this post. One of my goals for this blog is simply to get people talking about food and it certainly looks like this post has accomplished that goal!

Regardless of how you feel about Jamie Oliver or the money behind his current project, I think the bottom line is something we all can agree on. Children are growing up with a poor knowledge of food and even worse physical contact with real food. If you watch the TV long enough, you'll hear some politician complaining about how we're going to be leaving a huge amount of debt for generations to come. I think we should also consider what type of foods and we are going to be leaving for generations to come.(a class room of kids that can't identify a tomato?) In light of this, I 'm not sure how you can argue against a campaign to educate children about food and to get people cooking again. It has to start somewhere and with someone....

Again, thank you all for your thoughtful posts. I'm certain that each one of us can make a difference simply by starting the discussion.

Carol said...

It's like the adage of you're only as strong as your weakest link, though, you know? And, take it from someone who has done more messaging and positioning than most other people in the food world, this is a waste of time and money, and actually sets the issue back a few steps. Ditto Alice Waters' "60 Minutes" interview, and every interview Michael Pollan has ever done. These are not the appropriate messengers on this issue. In fact, research shows they do a disservice. This is grassroots, this is community-based, this is legislative. British Jamie Oliver going to a really fat town in West Virginia to film a TV show will change nothing. It won't educate a single person. No one's life will be changed. Mark my words. This issue has been talked about for decades in schools. This isn't a new story. The data has gotten worse, yes, but as long as state budgets are where they are, Sodexho will still continue to supply the same food to schools as they do to prisons because it's all about money. And, let's just say that if and when there are ever school funding increases, the fact that there's no nutrition union, but a teachers' union, tells you where that money is gonna go.

People are too lazy to make change in their lives or the lives of their kids. It's hard work, and people are lazy. Read the data. Why do you think things like "post your bra color on Facebook" or "turn your avatar green on Twitter" are so popular? It's called slacktivism. People think that by saying, "Oh that's nice, Hershey's is wrapping its candy in pink this October, I think I'll buy some" that they're actually making a difference in this world. They're not. The only thing they're doing is increasing Hershey's profits.

Jamie Oliver's show is another example of that. People will sit on their fat asses while their kids eat Doritos, and they will mock these obese people in West Virginia and say to themselves, "wow, look how fat THEY are" and then go buy whatever crap is advertised during the show... because you know the fucking Carrot Council of America isn't an advertiser.

Beau said...


I agree with almost every thing you wrote, except this:

"These are not the appropriate messengers on this issue."

If not the Jamie Oliver's (and yes, it's hard for me to imagine Joe Six Pack from WV giving a rat's ass what some slick dude with a Brit accent has to say about his Mickey D's), or the Alice Waters', or the Mike Pollan's of the world leading the charge, then who?

Would it be the guy with the PhD and two post docs in carbohydrate or lipid metabolism? Or the sociologist who warns about a declining life expectancy? The politician who actually cares more about people than maintaining his seat of power (if such a creature exists)? Not a chance. People would drop off into narcoleptic stupors faster than they could change the channel.

You're right on that the Carrot Council will never be seen advertising in any meaningful time or place. So, isn't the existence of these celebrity "spokespeople", speaking in prime time venues, critical to keeping food issues in the public view?

And then the cynic in me takes over... I agree completely that changing perceptions and policy is a grassroots, community based effort, but you can forget any significant legislative action. Sure, we can convene coalitions, and put the first lady in charge of some initiative or another, but at the end of the day, nothing will change. Even after shelling out big bucks to be the "Official Restaurant of the Olympics" (can you imagine????), Mickey D's still has enough left over to buy up whatever politicians necessary to maintain the status quo.

One last thing--people *are* disgustingly lazy, and they need to accept a major portion of the blame for the situation they're in--it's not like the alternatives don't even exist. They do. But they (we) are all fat, salt, and sugar junkies, and asking them to reform the system themselves is like asking a crackhead to rewrite effective drug policy. There is no motivation, and no chance in hell.

ostman said...

"People are too lazy to make change in their lives or the lives of their kids. It's hard work, and people are lazy." - Carol

Wow, Carol, you and I live in different worlds.

Yes, some people are definitely too lazy, and probably way too many. But I see firsthand the opposite literally every day.

I work (teach) in a middle school, and yes, there are students and parents that are too lazy to do what is necessary. But there are also very motivated students and parents that will do whatever is necessary to get what their children need to be successful.

Again, I'm not naive that our eating habits and lifestyles will change overnight, or even at all as a society. But we can and do change habits all the time. A food/nutrition'lifestyle educational program won't change everyone, but it can make a difference for some.

And that's a start, and a whole lot better than doing nothing.

Beau said...

For the record, I'd like to draw the conclusion that I failed to reach in my last comment here.

On review, I seemed to contradict myself on the liklihood of reforming food policies that have led to the obesity crisis, among others.

I do think that change is possible, even likely, if the effort to do so comes from the right quarters, and the need for change is realized one person at a time, until a critical mass is reached, and the numbers demanding reform are so overwhelming that policy makers have no choice but to change policy. To me, that takes leaders with credibility and popular appeal, not necessarily depth of knowledge in the actual subject matter.

However, the obstacles are significant. The greatest are those entities currently creating handsome profits from cheap, fast food. That profitability allows them to control the advertising as well as the policy makers.

And then there are people themselves. No, they are not "disgustingly lazy" (poor choice of words, on my part). Though some make poor food choices out of convenience, for others it may be a lack of knowledge, resources, time, or energy that keeps them under nourished and over-caloried.

I sincerely believe that some of these obstacles can be overcome, if we make diet and nutrition a higher priority in our lives. Again, the right spokesperson can help steer us toward that end.

Carol said...

Beau: That's part of the problem and a reason it's difficult to make headway on this issue -- finding the right spokespeople is a huge challenge because this problem spans so many demographics and ethnicities. There's been a lot of research done on who people trust to hear these kinds of messages from, and a significant number of people across a wide spectrum of racial and socioeconomic cuts of data trust their clergy on issues of parenting, family, and community -- which is where food plays a significant role. So, there's the grassroots notion of working through churches to make change. But, it's hard for many families to make those changes when they're conditioned to parent in a way that means giving their kids what they want (the old "I want my kid to like me" conundrum) -- which is often the crap food they see advertised on TV.

I have a friend who was relatively healthy, but picked up some real crap at the grocery store because her son asked for it. Then, she'd constantly be fighting with him over how many cookies he'd be sneaking, or candy he'd eat, or chips he'd have before dinner... and one afternoon during a big fight, the kids said, "but *you* bought this stuff for me and now you're yelling at me about eating it?"

So, she threw it all in the trash, and hasn't bought it since.

Behavioral change is always tough especially when you're looking at things on this level of scale and magnitude. It took more than 40 years of grassroots outreach, public policy, tax incentives, lawsuits, public awareness campaigns, economic barriers, and other tactics to get people to pay attention to smoking and health, and we're still not where we need to be. Not even close.

Ten bucks says the Jamie Oliver show will do the same thing the Kevin Smith/Southwest Airlines debacle did -- it'll turn into a debate about whether or not this is really just fat-shaming, and shouldn't we just love people for who they are, with the added layer of West Virginia hick humor.... 'cause better them than me.

I'm a cynic because I work in Washington and know how behavior change happens, and cannot for the life of me understand how every single issue goes down the same belabored and mistaken path(s) without addressing the real issues that cause these kinds of problems.

Beau said...


Thanks for the thoughtful response.

I never considered the clergy as a means for change in food and diet, but I can see how it would influence some people that would be hard to reach by other means.

You also referenced tobacco, and I think there are interesting parallels between smoking and obesity as well. I personally think that the obesity crisis will follow the same path that tobacco has, from universal acceptance; to increasing public awareness of health risks of, and the resulting public burden for, treatment (where we probably are now with obesity); to massive (heavy handed?) government intervention; and finally to being socially unacceptable and stigmatized (where tobacco is currently).

What surprises me is that Big Food (fast food, soft drink manufacturers, etc.) don't seem to share my vision for the end result, or see the similarities between themselves and Big Tobacco of the 90s. Yes, there is some effort to offer healthier choices by the fast food industry (salads, fruit desserts, etc) but by and large it seems to be business as usual. Maybe they've accounted for it in their long range planning, and just chalk it up to the cost of doing business, and will pay the judgements against them when they come. It may make more economic sense to maintain status quo than to stop selling things now that people really want.

Which puts it back in the laps of individual people, who ultimately need to be the ones who change their food habits on an individual level.

Finally, I can relate to your story about the frustrations of trying to make kids eat well. I recently spent about 3 hours of a Sunday afternoon making a wholesome, delicious (I thought) meal for our gang, who unapologetically refused to eat it. Not even a taste. So, our plan for the future is to make the same meal, and then put it into takeout containers, and tell them that we saw it advertised on TV and bought it from the grocery store, and see if it changes the acceptance level.

Thanks for the interesting discussion.

ostman said...

Somewhat related:


ostman said...

Agreed… interesting thoughts!

Final word from me: Beau and Carol, you both have very valid comments, and no doubt, change will be difficult at best. I'd still argue though, that "hard to accomplish" doesn't make the effort futile or worthless.

Take the TED prize of $100,000. If Oliver gets one or two kids to start to consider the food they eat, and along with other educational fronts those kids make decisions that positively impact health, the $100,000 is not only well spent in a figurative way, but also literally. All of the potential health problems from poor dietary choices in one or two people can save $100,000 in health care costs in some instances.

Yes, kids, adults, etc. don't make change easily, but they can and sometimes do. Don't give up on them!

Carol said...

See, and I'd rather use the $100k toward a lobbyist to apply pressure to Harkin and others who control the Senate Ag. issues and get some subsidies and laws changed/augmented that apply tax incentives in the areas that will foster change.

Rain Song Farm said...

Chef Little: Thanks for the link to a great video. Jamie Oliver is one of many who are sending a message that needs to be repeated over and over until we get it!

When I think about changing the way all Americans eat, or the way all schoolchildren eat, I can easily become overwhelmed and cynical.

But, there are things I can do in my community that can influence one or two families, and may make all the difference in the world to those couple of children. So I go for it!

Keep up the great posts. Someday I'll get to central PA and try out your restaurant!