By Leslie Crawford
Where were the naked chefs when I was growing up?
There was sure no Jamie Oliver reminding grown-ups that to raise healthy kids, we need to feed them healthy food – that if made well, beans and rice made from scratch trumps a deep-fried Twinkie any day.
School lunch before the food revolution
There was certainly no Food Revolution going on in Teller Elementary's cafeteria decades ago when, faced with an untouched and flaccid ort (noun: a scrap or morsel of food left at a meal) slathered in a brown, gelatinous sauce, I launched my own "I'm-not-going-to-eat-this-slop" insurrection. After lunch, taking a page from Oliver Twist's daring move, I marched to the principal's office to ask for, not more food, but please sir, edible food.
The principal, to his credit, didn't go all Charles Dickens on me and toss me into the streets. Instead, he invited me to join a Denver Public School lunch committee made up of students who, over the course of a week, were brought into a private room during lunch and asked to try different new dishes. I remember taste testing several burritos, which meant choosing between simply bad and repulsive. In the end, my efforts – and even the laudable ones of the school district – to make food more palatable were futile ones. The food never improved while I was there. But then, change can take a long, long time.
Children's health and the obesity epidemic
Now it's 2012 and Jamie Oliver is leading a desperately needed revolution. Certainly, on his "Food Revolution" TV show, he's been preaching to the masses about the pleasure of eating good food that's also good for you and the perils of our fat-salt-and-sugar-heavy diet. (Because of the obesity epidemic, the current generation of children may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.)
The first ever Food Revolution Day is this Saturday, May 19. Oliver's call to farms is meant to wake up educators, and parents, to the fact that it's our duty to nourish kids' bodies as much as it is to feed their minds (and that by nourishing their bodies, we are also helping their brains). You can get a feast of ideas on how to be part of this Food Revolution on his site, including perhaps my favorite Tip #3, which recommends: "If you can, eat lunch at your school and find out for yourself what is on the lunch tray and what other food and drink is available during the day."
Have you ever eaten one of the lunches they serve at your child's school? Unless the school is one of the lucky few that has risen above the proverbial Salisbury steak, that might be enough to get you to join the revolution, too.