I have always been tremendously inspired by folks who give of themselves simply out of a sense of obligation towards the good of their fellow humans. If those folks also happen to be rich and famous and in a position to otherwise live their lives large and grand and wholly ignorant of the plight of those around them, let alone the state of their planet, I commend them even more. I cannot speak highly enough of the advocacy that Coldplay does for Fair Trade, or Radiohead does for Greenpeace and other environmental organizations, or Brad Pitt does for affordable, sustainable housing.
Because food, and nutrition are so important to me personally (for those of you that don't know, I have a bachelor's degree in Holistic Nutrition, as well as a second bachelor's in Sociology; my thesis specifically addressed child nutrition and socioeconomic status), individuals that campaign tirelessly, when it is certainly not required of them, for the health and welfare of those they share this planet with fill my heart with gratitude and my mouth with infinite praise. Jamie Oliver is one such individual.
Already on a trajectory for wild fame and success, Oliver's empathic leanings caused him to reassess his position and clout mid-career. Becoming aware of the unique position he held for captivating people's attention, he embarked on a number of causes to lift people out of paths of poverty and diets destined for death. In 2005, he created a British program entitled "Feed Me Better" that worked towards moving schoolchildren in his native country away from unhealthy diets and towards healthier foods and dietary habits. He gained the support of the British government and his cause was chronicled in the t.v. show "Jamie's School Dinners." From there, he began an effort to teach the townsfolk of Rotherham, South Yorkshire how to incorporate fresh foods into their diets and cook easy, delicious, healthy meals. This project was captured in the series "Jamie's Ministry of Food." And if that weren't enough, Oliver would go on to campaign on behalf of sustainable animal husbandry, providing revealing exposes of the practices of industrialized British poultry and pork production in "Jamie's Fowl Dinners" and "Jamie Saves Our Bacon."
A culinary "Public Citizen", Oliver's latest attempt at offering education and radical change about food practices and dietary habits comes in the form of a reality show based in Huntington, West Virginia, a city recently deemed the most unhealthy city in the United States (over half of the adult population is categorically obese). Airing its 2-hour premiere this coming Friday on ABC (8 p.m. ET), "Jamie's Food Revolution", previewed in the video above, chronicles the chef's attempts at overhauling the health and well-being on the entire city, placing heavy emphasis on its schoolchildren.
From the preview, it's clear that he's up against some formidable naysayers. I'm confident, though. It took me some time to come around to Oliver myself. When he was simply "The Naked Chef", his perfectly rumpled hair and cheeky talk didn't do much for me. Perhaps becoming a father is what changed him, though, and a changed man he certainly is. A clip in the preview shows a tearful Oliver, sitting in one of Huntington's playgrounds, declaring how deeply he cares of Huntington's population. He also offers a reproach, stating that if people don't find dietary education and healthful change important "well then, shame on you." I couldn't agree more.
I think it's so easy to live our lives in isolation and detachment from the strangers in our communities and in our larger human community. We're not that different, though, in the end. We breathe the same air. We drink the same water. We want to love and be loved. We all deserve healthy, nutritious, life-giving and life-affirming foods. I support Oliver's efforts as though they were my own, because, in fact, they are. He's just got the name recognition, camera crew, and perfectly coiffed bed head to get the work started now.
Come Friday night, I'll be parked on my couch, watching "Jamie's Food Revolution." I hope that you will, as well.