It’s not just my food revolution.
By now I hope you’ve seen the first two episodes of my new show on ABC, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. If you’ve seen it, I hope you’ve realized that this revolution isn’t about me. It’s about you—moms (parents, really) who care about their children—who care about giving them the best opportunities life has to offer them. As a parent and a chef, I want to tell you it starts with fresh food.
I am writing this blog because I know the followers of MomsRising get it. And I also know that I will only succeed by joining together with women such as yourselves. I need your help.
I started my work in one of Huntington’s elementary schools. Funnily enough, West Virginia has pretty high standards as compared to the rest of the country. Luckily for me, the local government and school district still welcomed me and my television crew. I wanted see if I could make the school food even better. I wanted to change the kinds of food coming into the school and get fresh food into the system.
To earn reimbursement from the federal government (critical to funding the school lunch program) every lunch must include four basic components – milk, protein, grains and a vegetable. But behind that is a massively distorted system. As long as a school can check off those four boxes, then they don’t bother even looking at the food that’s on the plate.Check out these two pictures:
Both of these lunches meet the federal nutrition standards. Which one would you rather your child was eating?
We must get rid of the junk. The federal nutritional regulations allow pizza made from processed ingredients to be served for breakfast. French fries count as a vegetable. And portable food is served every day without any need for cutlery or dishes—or any table manners whatsoever. Sloppy Joes and burgers are made from the lowest quality beef. Hot dogs and corn dogs come from meat that comes from who knows where and chicken nuggets are made from more ingredients than I can even count. The list goes on.
Take sugar. I can’t find any regulations that control the amount of sugar in the meal, so milk is ripe for the ruining. Why serve regular milk when you can dye it pink or brown and add so much sugar that it contains nearly as much as a can of soda?
There’s sugar in the cereal, there’s sugar in the bread, there’s sugar here, there and everywhere! Why? Because it’s cheap and the fast food industry has gotten us addicted to it.
Ask a pediatrician (or a teacher for that matter) to identify the biggest enemy of child’s health and they will answer,” sugar”. You put beautiful little kids in school, 180 days of the year, from four to 18 and nearly every choice offered to them is some version of junk food.
I know that I’m not alone in being worried about school lunches and childhood obesity. Everyone knows what the problem is. Everyone is sick of hearing the bad statistics. In America, there are loads of people who have been working hard for change, trying to get heard and make school nutrition reform into the most important issue of our generation.
There are some real improvements being made right now to the child nutrition program and the bill on it is going through Congress right now. But if more money isn’t allocated then no one will be able to implement the new standards. About $1 is spent on an average school lunch. Industry is saying another 35 cents is needed to make improvements, but just six cents is being offered as an incentive payment for the new requirements. It’s simply not enough.
And we need to let your politicians know we care. If you want improve school food, sign my petition: http://www.jamiesfoodrevolution.com/petition
Here’s my recipe for “Classic Tomato Spaghetti” that they used for the school food recipe.
Classic Tomato Spaghetti
This pasta sauce takes minutes to cook. What’s great about this recipe for beginner cooks is that once you’ve done it a few times you can add other simple ingredients to your basic tomato sauce to completely transform it. Check out the end of the recipe, where I’ve given you some ideas to get started.
2 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chile
A small bunch of fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried spaghetti
1 x 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
4 ounces Parmesan cheese
To prepare your pasta
Peel and finely slice the garlic. Finely slice your chile (halve and seed it first if you don’t want the sauce too hot). Pick the basil leaves off the stalks and put to one side. Finely chop the stalks.
To cook your pasta
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, put a large saucepan on a medium heat and add 2 good lugs of olive oil. Add the garlic, chile, and basil stalks and give them a stir. When the garlic begins to brown slightly, add most of the basil leaves and the canned tomatoes. Turn the heat up high and stir for a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the spaghetti in a colander then transfer it to the pan of sauce and stir well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
These can be added to your tomato sauce when it’s finished. Just stir in and warm through:
· Add a handful of baby spinach leaves to the sauce at the same time you add the pasta—when the leaves have wilted remove from the heat and serve with some crumbled goat’s cheese on top.
· A few handfuls of cooked shrimp and a handful of chopped arugula with the juice of ½ a lemon.
· A can of tuna drained and flaked into the sauce with ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, some black olives and the juice of ½ a lemon.
· A handful of fresh or frozen peas and fava beans
To find out more about the child nutrition bill and make sure Congress hears you follow these links below:
Footnote on French fries
You would imagine that nutritional standards would be based on common sense. But today, French fries are considered a vegetable. Yes, a potato is a vegetable but by the time that you have chopped it up and deep-fried it I don’t think that you can still say it’s a healthy vegetable. Especially when kids aren’t eating enough salad and greens. French fries check a box for the food provider, they can say they served a portion of vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good French fry and I am not being a food Nazi, I eat them too. It’s just when they are available on a daily basis and the kids can choose them over the salad bar and fresh broccoli it’s a problem. Let’s get radical and serve French fries only once a week!