Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver, Reforms School Lunches and School Lunch Programs

Jamie Oliver, tireless crusader for eating fresh, cooking fresh, and raising the "healthiness" bar for our nation's population, along with our cooking standards, takes on Public School Lunch Programs. Chef Jamie, sometimes profane, but always passionate in his views, has long been known for his "pay-it-forward" style of teaching people to cook. He is appalled by the high fat, high sodium, over-processed food substitutes that make up much of the public school hot lunch menus. Fresh, healthy foods are almost nonexistent on most school lunch menus, while high calorie, high fat snacks, sweets and soft drink choices abound.

In his quest to improve the health of a nation, Chef Oliver has gone into schools to see first-hand what is being served, and to explore methods of changing these practices.

Jamie Oliver - photo from goodgrapevine.co.uk
Jamie Oliver - photo from goodgrapevine.co.uk
Fabulous fresh fruits and veg - photo from couponing101.com
Fabulous fresh fruits and veg - photo from couponing101.com

This contains clips from the above video, along with interviews examining the implications for our kids - do give it a watch!

On the one hand, we should be grateful that so many schools do offer a hot lunch program for our children. So many kids get themselves off to school, and arrivel with no lunch, or a lunch box full of junk food.

Those children who depend on the hot lunch programs for their noon meal are more fortunate than those children who must do without.

Or are they?

The lunches that were offered consisted, for the most part, of highly processed foods: chicken nuggets, fries, fish sticks, burger on a white bread bun, and the like. The local councils were told that the children wouldn't eat anything else.

The lunches, though hot, were certainly not nutritious. In fact, when the foods were tested by food nutritionists, they were found to quite high in fat, sodium, and highly refined carbohydrates, and to contain no Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Folic Acid, or any of the other building blocks necessary for growing children.

How are children to be expected to learn or remember anything when they are being fed meals with little or no nutrient value.

One of the other chronic ills was that many schools had food-vending machines - machines that were stuffed with chips, pop, candy bars, and every other kind of sugary or salty snack. A recipe for disaster if there ever was one.

What parent in their right mind would fill their child full of sugar and then expect them to sit still - let alone to pay attention and learn something.

Enter Jamie Oliver - determined to make a difference for the better.

His contention that fresh, healthy food is best for everyone is not new. What is new and different are the lengths to which this "food crusader" will go to get his message across.

One such crusade was his pay-it-forward campaign, in which he taught regular people with no particular cooking skills how to cook a dish on the proviso that they would teach it to someone else, who would then teach it to one of their friends, and so on, and so on...

The real trick with changing the menu in the school hot lunch programs, would not just involve the councils and politicians who controlled the purse strings, it would first involve changing the parents and the children, so that they would actually eat, enjoy, and demand, healthy food made from fresh, healthy ingredients.

Chicken Nuggets Experiment

 Fresh and delicious entree - photo from campusdish.com
Fresh and delicious entree - photo from campusdish.com

School Lunches - Part 2

One of my favorite parts of the program, is the scene in which Chef Jamie shows a room full of children what actually goes into the processed chicken nuggets they had enjoyed. Most of the children were revolted, not as much by the ingredients as by the disgusting mess of mush - a very clear case of "what you don't know can hurt you".

The real payoff came when he offered them real, cooked, unprocessed chicken legs which they had formerly declined in favor of the processed chicken. The change in attitude once they sampled the unprocessed food was quite apparent.

Another great tactic he used to get the kids "on board" was to get them involved with actually preparing the food. Once the children had a hands-on experience, they were much more willing to try new foods and taste things they wouldn't have even looked at prior to this experience.

Several families were chosen as test cases, to have their children go "sweeties free" for a two week period. Their children were good kids, just loud, rowdy, and inclined to ignore their parents, indulging in loud, rough play with their siblings and friends.

At the end of the two weeks, the parents were asked if they had noticed any changes. Almost all reported better behavior, less rowdiness, more calm and "paying attention". The parents were so thrilled with the behavioral changes that eventually the junk food-stocked vending machines were removed from the schools completely.

Fresh from Baja - photo from opentravelinfo.com
Fresh from Baja - photo from opentravelinfo.com

It takes a great deal of drive to create change, but Chef Oliver's simple, down-to-earth approach to making things happen also makes it so clear that the change is desperately needed, that we are left wondering why on earth we didn't see this before.

Now that we have seen the need, how can we not respond. Action is required to protect our children from our "time-saving, and cost effective" measures, and ensure we give them real, fresh, healthful foods to eat.

We are charged with raising the next generation of leaders. We need to ensure we give our children the best possible chance we can, starting with good nutrition at home and in the school hot lunch programs.

Thanks, CASE1WORKER, for requesting this Hub! It was great fun to research and write. Chef Oliver and his "crusades" make for great topics.

...and here's another great link from Wire-Zone: For you foodies out there, here is a free subscription to Food Arts Magazine: http://tinyurl.com/rdodnk

© 2010 RedElf

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Comments 50 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Very interesting hub, thank you.


WE5 profile image

WE5 6 years ago

Great theme and interesting hub! I watched JO with my twelve year old daughter the other night while we were channel surfing. It was the first time I'd seen him. He's shooting from the hip and has taken on quite a dragon but I wish him well. I had to admire his spirit and knowledge and also his willingness to poke fun at himself for the good of the programme. keep it up... both of you!


betherann profile image

betherann 6 years ago from Montana

It'll certainly be interesting to see if Jamie's efforts have an effect.


entertianmentplus profile image

entertianmentplus 6 years ago from United States

Awesome hub.Well done


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Jamie Oliver is quite the character and he has been so effective in his mission. This is an interesting hub. Thanks.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

I had no idea that Jamie Oliver was such an 'activist.' This is fantastic news! He is such an inspiration in the kitchen to me, and I realize how important his influence is on the kids.

Thanks for enlightening me!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hh, hello! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

WE5, he is a gutsy fellow, isn't he?!

betherann, I live in hope that his impact will be long-lasting.

Thanks so much, entertainmentplus. Glad you enjoyed it.

Pamela99, thanks so much. He is certainly worth a second look ;)

Most welcome, lorlie6. He's quite a crusader - don't know where he gets the energy ;)


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

I wonder what would happen if we cut out school lunches entirely and everyone packed. Imagine the money it would save and for those who can't afford it provide them standard sack lunch, pb&j etc. My point is you have the kids that eat the luch room stuff and those who flat out don't due to the lack of heatlhy food choices. I know my kids NEVER eat the caf food. Thanks and Peace :)


mquee profile image

mquee 6 years ago from Columbia, SC

Great subject matter and worthy cause.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

katiem2, I hate to think what would happen to kids whose families don't or can't provide adequate lunches if we did that. I'd hate for my kid to have to eat pb&j every day when they could have a nutritious lunch.

I am happy that your kids don't have to eat in the school cafeteria. They are most fortunate. My concern is for those who don't have that choice. Peace to you, too, and thanks for you comments :D

Hey mquee! Thanks for stopping by ;)


green tea-cher profile image

green tea-cher 6 years ago

Great Hub idea! Last year in our public schools a decision was made to remove all junk food from the vending machines and cafeterias. Initially there were some complaints, but over all it has been a great success. It's good to see the idea spreading.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, green tea-cher! I hope it spreads a lot farther!


hubpageswriter 6 years ago

I think his shows rock. This one will most probably be a success too.


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Another great hub about Jamie Oliver, RedElf, very entertaining. He has changed the way our schools sell healthy food in Australia so there is no reason why it won't change in America. Go Jamie!


liswilliams profile image

liswilliams 6 years ago from South Africa

Great hub, RedElf, Amazing what Jamie has done for British cooking in general and for helping kids lead a healthy lifestyle.


PartyPlannerDeb profile image

PartyPlannerDeb 6 years ago

Great HUB - I Love Jamie! I've been watching his latest program about the US school system - pizza for breakfast!?! That definitely goes under the 'what were they thinking' category. It's time we all smartened up and stopped allowing our children and ourselves to be dupe by the agra-industry. Can you food inc? Thanks for spreading the word.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, hubpageswriter! I hope so too - I enjoy his shows a lot.

Thanks so much, MPG! I have high hopes for him. maybe he'll come to Canada next ;)

liswilliams, he has achieved some amazing things - quite the dynamo ;)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, PartyPlannerDeb! I'm with you in this!

Wire-Zone, I have posted you comments here, but moved that great link up into the hub. Thanks so much.

Wire-Zone 2 hours ago

Great Hub!!! Everyone should learn how to cook wholesome food!!!


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

RedElf, Your probably right, I guess I feel that the lunches are really bad and not healthy. But what do I know. I am very glad someone like Jamie Oliver is working on school lunches nutritious meals for kids. It makes me sad that more parents don't really get involved and feed their kids better. When I said do away with school lunches I was thinking lets all be accountable for what our kids eat and really take a good look at it. People don't do that UNTIL they sometimes must. Good and Important topic. This thing is BIGGER than we know.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

I agree with you, katiem2. Some school lunch programs are quite good, but generally the ones where the parents are concerned about their kids' nutrition, and involved with the programs. It would be great if we would all get involved in making sure our kids all have a nutritious lunch!


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

RedElf, Lets HOPE Naked Chef Jamie Oliver Reforms School Lunches and may his every energy be super charged and motivate all of us to learn better and do better, this hub is a fabulous tool to do just that. Thanks and Peace :)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, katiem. I'm trying to get the word out ;)


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

I love this guy... watched it last night. UGH, I hope the money comes through and people, like in the kitchen... realize the little bit more effort to make the nutrious food is worth it! Such a passionate topic, lets all imagine Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver MAKES IT HAPPEN and support him by going to his website and signing the Petition! Lets ALL support him with this small gesture. Thanks RedElf for starting this all to important discussion! Peace:)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Good thought, katiem! I'm on my way.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

He's one lone voice crying in the wilderness of school lunches, but I think your hub helps so much to publicize, and that's a GOOD thing!!!! Great hub, Elf, keep up the good work!


ng0208 profile image

ng0208 6 years ago from Kentucky

Great hub! Where was this guy at when my school lunches were terrible in high school! I was definitely one of those kids who didn't eat lunch!


chirls profile image

chirls 6 years ago from Indiana (for now)

Interesting hub. I hope that Jamie Oliver has as much success with his campaign here in the US as he did in the UK. I was shocked by what they will let kids eat in schools. Fries are not a vegetable!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

I hope so, Paradise7! It would be nice to have contributed something to the cause.

Yes, we could have used him in my school cafeteria, too, ng0208!

Those poor old potatoes may have been edible at some point - before they were deep-fried ;)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

RedElf how are you? When I was in high school in Texas, they had vending machines with only fresh fruit in them. I personally enjoyed the fresh apples very much. I say bring back the vending machines but put only fresh veggies and fruit in them and 100% Juice drinks. It's amazing what good choices kids will make when you give them mostly wholesome alternatives.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

I'm great, winsome - how are you? God Bless Texas! You are right about that - it just takes some time to convince everyone else.


Ms Chievous profile image

Ms Chievous 6 years ago from Wv

Nice article and good topic. I am from the state that Jamie Oliver had visited to shape up. I don't think his motivation lasted. The town was still a little resentful of the being dubbed the fattest town in America, so his arrival was treated in the same fashion. The news I hear locally is that his appearnce didn't make much differnce as a whole. I don't beleive out state has enough money to keep good teachers much less a super healthy lunch.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hopefully, he will visit another state? Too bad though, the way it seems to be turning out for your state.


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

Great article! I started watching his series about school lunches and thought he had a great idea. More schools should get involved. We have a school lunch program that offers sandwiches, fruit and non-carbonated drinks for kids in need and it is most welcome to know they are concerned about healthy choices.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Enelle. That is so good to know, too - about your school's lunch program. Great to hear that the kids aren't going hungry.


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

Great hub! I've been watching Jamie's Food Revolution on TV and I think what he's doing is a great thing. The information and education he's providing is nothing new, but everyone needs to be reminded. I truly hope he does cause a nationwide revolution.

My daughter is about to start kindergarten in the fall and I have no idea what kind of food they serve, but I plan on packing her lunches to make sure she continues to eat healthy.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Good for you, Lily Rose - I'm so glad you'll be packing nutritious lunches for your little one. You're right, too, he's not saying anything new, but we certainly need to hear it often, it seems.


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 6 years ago from Virginia

He sure is easy on the eyes!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

I like that picture of him, too, lovelypaper ;)


DustinsMom profile image

DustinsMom 6 years ago from USA

A great hub indeed. I have been following Jamie and I say kuddos to what he is doing.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

You got that right in one, DustinsMom - nice to see you!


hypnosis4u2 profile image

hypnosis4u2 6 years ago from Massachusetts

Jamie's crusade is timely and spot on in school dinners. The series on U.S. TV was compelling watching. This hub helps with the cause as well thank you.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

I couldn't agree more about his cause, hypnosis4u2. I hope he continues to spread the word.


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

School lunches in Australia come from a canteen, we don't have the type of lunch rooms American kids do. This said, some school canteens don't offer healthy food, just the usual pies, chips and burgers. The Government has tried to overhaul school canteens and have succeeded to some degree but there is resistance much the same as the type Jamie encountered.

Many Aussie parents opt to make home lunches which is cheaper and healthier.

Jamie should be commended and keep fighting for the cause.

Great hub, RedElf.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

It almost always comes down to the dollars. Keep fighting! Thanks so much MPG. Always a pleasure to have you stop by.


LearnFromMe profile image

LearnFromMe 5 years ago

Kudos to Jaime Oliver for trying to reform school lunches! As you wrote, it not only would help with nutrition, it would help with behavior as well. Too many kids have unhealthy lunches and snacks and then are too jumpy to listen or they completely crash after lunch. Thanks for sharing this! It should be passed along now that the school year is upon us once again! :)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, LearnFromMe. I wish all schools had a nutritious lunch program for all the students that attended. It would make such a long-term difference for our kids.


Fadi 5 years ago

Have you been to Middle est schools


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

No, I have not been to any schools in the Middle East, but it would be interesting to learn about them.


Lemmonsbd 5 years ago

I ate school lunch with my daughter this past Friday, it was horrible. Brown hotdog, hard wheat bun, wilted salad...made me sick. It's been horrible for 2 years now and I for one am sick of it. It makes me sad to think the kids who only get school lunch and nothing else, they have to eat garbage. Any idea's on how I can help what is served in our schools would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Lemmonsbd, you could start by getting together with other parents who feel the same way - more hands can help with your research.

You need to find out as much as you can about the school lunch program: who funds it, who runs it, how is it run, what are the criteria for menus and how are the criteria fulfilled.

Get all the background info you can, and try to come up with one or more solutions - maybe your group could organize a parents' co-op to deliver nutritious lunches.

Then, perhaps you could all make a representation to the school board - and be prepared for an uphill battle. Stick to your guns though, and don't let them get away with saying the kids won't eat nutritious food - show them some of Jamie Oliver's findings.

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