Jamie Oliver certainly brings out mixed emotions in most people. Firstly he’s the loveable cheeky cockney chap, naked chef, bringing new life to TV cooking. Then he became the overexposed Sainsbury’s poster boy, in all the ads, doing voice overs and generally overstaying his welcome. So he reinvents himself as the crowned king of worthwhile reality TV.
What did he get right? He picks things he cares about. Unlike, say, Gordon Ramsay, who just came across as a miserable bag of turd, belittling B-list celebs live on TV (all the ones with any backbone walked out – respect to the late great Tommy Vance for that!), Jamie picked subjects that would change the lives of ordinary people for the better. In Jamie’s Kitchen, he took a bunch of relative no-hopers from rough backgrounds and gave them the chance to train to be top chefs. They’ve still got jobs. Their lives are on a different path. Magic.
His next project was in a whole different league. Jamie took on Britain’s school dinners in Jamie’s School Dinners. It took months to film, and started in one school, with Jamie trying to get the kids to eat properly. What they were eating was truly shocking. The worst kind of junk food, the same crap every day, zero nutritional content. Just rubbish, rubbish that will eventually kill them. And Jamie cared. Really, not for a moment did even the most cynical of hacks question his motives. Watching the programme, it’s inconceiveable how parents have let it get to this stage. The kids couldn’t recognise vegetables!
So he goes on a crusade, getting 55 schools in Greenwich to move over to his new menu. He works within the insane food budget that he’s set, he convinces dinner ladies to work unpaid overtime, he wrecks his homelife in order to make this happen.
Suddenly pain-in-the-arse Jamie is transformed into we-need-more-people-like-you-on-TV Jamie. A hero, fighting the beaurocrats who will sell the kids of the nation’s health for 15p a day.
It’s riveting viewing, and I really really hope things change. Things already are changing. The teachers report back a total turn-around in the kids’ concentration levels, attentiveness and behaviour patterns, just through the change of diet.
Come on, Ruth Kelly, get it together!! As Education Secretary, she’s responsible for the decisions, the one with the purse strings. Jamie’s done the work, written the handbook, drawn up the recipes. All you need to do is ban the junk, and pay for the training.
It’ll reap HUGE rewards in the future when these kids aren’t all rotting in hospital from preventable diseases.
So, let’s get behind Jamie, sign petitions, campaign, make a fuss. The future of the kids’ health depends on it. Go to the Feed Me Better campaign homepage, and start kicking up a fuss.
Soundtrack – David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ (Evil Harv is generally a malicious and sinister presence in the world, but all is forgiven for introducing me to this album a couple of years ago).by