Jamie Oliver is a British chef and TV presenter who has been leading a campaign in the UK for introducing schoolchildren to healthier foods. In his TED talk Teach Every Child About Food, he addresses the problem of obesity and unhealthy food options offered to children at schools (TED, 2010). He proposes a solution that involves actions from the government and food manufacturers, as well as from every individual family, to reform the food system and fight obesity,
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Jamie Oliver starts his speech with the statistical data on the influence of food on health. He claims that the next generation will live ten years less than the current generation because of the food they consume. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and diet-related diseases are the primary cause of death in the United States. Obesity costs 10% of healthcare bills, which amounts to a total of $150 billion a year. Obesity hurts not just people who have it but also their friends and families.
Then Oliver talks about the triangle that represents the landscape of food. The main street, which was some years ago dominated by local producers, has now been taken over by fast food brands that offer processed food. The home, which used to be the heart of food culture, has now given its role to schools where children eat twice a day. The school food system is run by accountants that have no knowledge of healthy food and choose the cheapest option, which is also highly-processed fast food. Children are not aware of what they eat and where this food comes from.
Then Oliver draws examples of food that has been substituted for unhealthier options in the school menu. Regular milk given to kids at school has been replaced with sweetened flavored milk that has as much sugar as fizzy pop. He assumes that someone in the food committee has decided that if milk is sweet, more kids will drink it. But it results in children consuming eight tablespoons of sugar a day just from milk.
Having identified the problem, Jamie Oliver then focuses on the proposed solution. The first step is the introduction of food ambassadors in supermarkets that would help people shop and show them how to cook quick, tasty, seasonal meals. Second, major food brands need to put food education at the heart of their businesses. Third, the government needs to work with fast food chains and the restaurant industry to develop a program aimed to reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and artificial ingredients in their products. Fourth, labeling needs to be redesigned to adequately reflect the composition of food items. Next, children need to be taught about food to be able to make healthy food choices. Finally, the food system in schools needs to be reformed to include properly cooked meals from fresh food from local growers on site.
Jamie Oliver concludes his talk by stressing out the importance of being able to cook. He claims that it is profoundly important that every American child is taught the basics of cooking and leaves the school knowing how to make ten recipes. It is the responsibility of every family to start passing on cooking as a philosophy and understand that every individual effort makes a difference. Jamie Oliver himself has implemented this program in Huntington’s Kitchen, working with schools and communities, and has managed to find local sustainable funding to get every school in that area from junk to fresh food. He encourages the United States to use his experience to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again, and empower people to fight obesity.
TED. (2010). Teach every child about food / Jamie Oliver [Video]. YouTube.