Ten years ago when reality shows first starting becoming popular, I was the first to say they were lame. But in the past decade, there have been a few that I have really taken interest in. The Biggest Loser is one. Because it doesn’t necessarily feature a bunch of type A personalities trapped in a house just for the sake of making people annoy each other. I guess it’s that I like my reality shows to have somewhat of a meaningful people that somehow helps people.
Something I’ve learned about reality shows since 2000 is this. Some of the best ones feature a British person. The clever producers found a smart way invent a show that carries over the ideals of The Biggest Loser with the editing feel of Super Nanny (a show that truly annoys me) with a charming British host.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Nation wins my approval.
He goes to Huntington, West Virginia, the “most unhealthiest town” in the country, where 50% of the people are obese. Not overweight, but obese. Its status of unhealthiest town is based on government statistics on death. Clearly the people of this town are doing something wrong.
The most entertaining part of this show is where we see the bass ackwards ways that the people of the town eat and what they deem as normal and acceptable. Clearly not eating for nutrition, only for convenience and pleasure.
As Jamie visits Central City Elementary School, he discovers that pizza is being served for breakfast, along with sugary cereals that turn the milk pink. The “mashed potatoes” are actually dehydrated potato flakes and they count as a vegetable serving. (Potatoes are a starch, like corn.)
Jamie then takes a look in the freezer. Mainly boxes full of processed foods that none of the lunch ladies can pronounce the ingredients. To give them credit though, most people went being able to. Because the ingredients are chemicals, not food.
Next Jamie visits for lunch. Processed chicken nuggets it is. He takes a look at the food the kids are throwing out as they leave: The vegetables and fruit.
Interestingly, it seems the only understanding Jamie receives comes from the pastor of First Baptist Church, Steve Willis. In a clip of one of his sermons called “Culture Shock”, he tells his congregation: “It should bother us that we’re the worst city in the worst state in the worst country.” (For diet, that is.)
Jamie decides to check out the average home situation to see how a child’s eating habits are affecting by the parents. He visits the Edwards family, who are all overweight to obese. Perhaps most notable is the 12 year-old son who appears to be well in the latter 200’s. And a 4 year-old daughter who, based on her size, I thought was 6 or 7.
Not surprisingly, the mother makes them fried doughnuts with chocolate icing every morning for breakfast. When Jamie confronts her about this, she laughs. He tells her that by laughing off her enablement she is using a defense mechanism.
Their freezer is full of frozen pizzas. Or as they call them: snacks.
Jamie convinces the family they all the food they eat is the same color- golden brown. Therefore, they bury their deep fryer in the backyard and has the mother pray over it, like a funeral.
The next day back at the school, Jamie Oliver begins his experiment. He has a week to improve the diet of what is being served in the lunchroom but at the same time staying under budget.
He learns that the lunchroom ladies are required to serve two “grain servings” each meal. In this twisted world of reality, they serve pizza as a grain serving. But since they have no true grains to serve, they serve two carbs in place of it. Which both consists of white bread.
My favorite (and the most disturbing) part of the episode was when Jamie took several kids aside in a classroom to teach them what is in their beloved chicken nuggets, which they told him they often eat for dinner when they get home.
He takes a baked chicken and removes the edible parts, including the breasts and the wings. He takes what is left and places it into a blender: the bloody leftovers and bones. After letting the chicken’s leftovers run in the blender for a few seconds, it becomes a pink, blobby substance that he molds in to patties, sprinkles with breadcrumbs, and deep fries them.
Definitely was as disgusting as it sounded. After he cooks the Frankenstein patties, Jamie asks the children who would like to try one. Without much hesitation, most of the kids eagerly raise their hands. And eat the homemade nuggets.
Jamie Oliver then explains to the camera that this was the first time anyone has ever wanted to eat the nuggets.
Another funny, yet sad, part of the episode was when he went into a classroom full of 6 year-olds to make sure they could identify fruits and vegetables in their whole form. That didn’t go too well. One kid thought a potato as a tomato and that was about as close as any student go to being correct.
As the episode starting winding down, Jamie took the Edwards family to the doctor for a check-up. The father admitted that they only go to the doctor once “something gets broken”. Surprisingly, the 12 year-old son mentioned earlier does not yet have Diabetes, but the doctor indeed classified him as “morbidly obese”, telling his parents that if he remains this way his condition will take off at least 30 years of his life.
Back at the school again the next day, Jamie decides to do an experiment for some of the parents of the schoolchildren, since his chicken nugget experience didn’t pan out so well. Having the children hold a giant tarp, a loaded dump truck emptied a month’s worth of lard into it. Along with hundreds of gallons of chocolate milk.
Interestingly, Jamie informed them (and us) that chocolate milk has more sugar in it than soda. Yikes.
Jamie now has to prove he can make a healthy meal to serve that day for lunch that the children will actually eat, and still come in under budget. He learns that the school does not have forks or knives. The kids are so used to eating nothing but processed foods that spoons are all they need.
Along with the principal of the school, Jamie teaches the children how to use a knife and fork. The kids don’t really like his healthy meal that much, and Jamie doubles the expenses of the budget, but because this is a contracted series, the superindendent and head nutritious agreed to give Jamie more time to change the eating habits of the school.
I have a feeling that Jamie Oliver’s Food Nation has the potential to become more than just a 6 episode mini-series. Hopefully it will replace The Super Nanny. Please?
“It sets like concrete?” -Jamie Oliver, repeating the words of one of the lunch ladies as she described to him how they make the “mashed potatoes”
“The milk’s got crap in it. The cereal’s got crap in it.” -Jamie, explaining the lack of nutrition in the breakfast served at the school
“What’s right with that?” -Jamie, answering a lunch lady who asked him, “What’s wrong with that?”, referring to a frozen solid chicken nugget Jamie took out of the freezer
“I’m here for the money, but you gotta love the kids too.” -Alice, the head lunch lady