British chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver was named the 2010 TED Prize
winner. You may recognize him from his many cookbooks or the ABC show, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” His brash style entertains while revealing the dire state of the
American food culture. He advocates for a nutrition revolution.
In one episode of his ABC show, he asked children at an elementary school
in West Virginia to identify fresh, whole food. He held up a potato, cauliflower,
broccoli, mushroom, beet, eggplant, and tomatoes. The children could not
correctly name the foods. They guessed that the tomatoes were potatoes.
Oliver talks to parents and policy makers too. “The food your kids
get every day is fast food... pizza for breakfast... if you don’t
have knives and forks in your school you are endorsing fast food because
it is hand held... If the kids don’t know what this stuff is, then
they will never eat it. Guess what will fix that? We’ve got to start
teaching kids in school about food, period.” Oliver suggests that
every kid ought to graduate high school having learned how to shop for,
and prepare, 10 good meals.
The TED Prize is awarded annually to
The TED prize gives Oliver a public stage upon which to express his wish
in front of an audience of people empowered to help him make that change.
Oliver’s wish: “To educate every child about food, to inspire
families to cook again, and to empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”
But simply stating that doesn’t do justice to Oliver’s unique
style. Watch him make his own case; it is now a TED video - look to the
right, click on the video, and it will play.
It is estimated that one out of every three children in the United States
is obese. “Diet related disease is the biggest killer in the U.S.
today,” Oliver said. We need to reboot and make tangible change.”
Oliver points out that the school lunch system is largely run by accountants,
not local food experts, and budgets are tight. The result is cafeteria
food that consists of cheap, highly processed foods. Many schools use
little or no fresh foods at all. To encourage children to drink more milk,
many schools offer flavored milk high in
sugar. This too is a highly processed, sugar-laden food, often loaded with
fructose, the major culprit for the
What happens at home is as important as what the children see and get at
school, according to Oliver. Families can learn the joys of cooking again.
And adults in policy making positions can do a lot to break the dependency
on fast food and get America hooked on eating healthfully.
Child obesity has become so serious in America that military leaders are
viewing the epidemic as a threat to national security. Obesity is the
#1 reason why applicants fail to qualify for service.
The issue is also causing heartbreak for some military families that have
always had a son or daughter in the service. Today, otherwise excellent
recruit prospects, with generations of military service in their family,
are being turned away because they are just too heavy.
– The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 8, 2010
“It’s incredibly exciting to welcome Jamie Oliver to join our
line-up of change catalysts,” the TED organization said. “And
exciting, too, to know that our existing winners are going to stay at
the heart of the TED community, as we continue working to realize their
inspirational visions for a better future.” Oliver asked the TED
community to provide the talent, hard work, and other resources needed
to make the wish come true, including:
• Help to establish a good-nutrition foundation, with funding, office
space and facilities
• Partners to create a traveling food theater troupe to teach kids
about food and cooking in an entertaining way, and to provide basic instruction
for parents and food professionals
• A partner to build and maintain a fleet of trucks for the traveling
• Establishment of a network of corporate partners to invest in cooking
and food education for their customers, and to champion honest food labeling
• Partners to equip and run community kitchens, and food suppliers
to provide fresh ingredients
• Education experts, graphic designers, artists and writers to develop
and produce creative, fun teaching materials
• Communications and marketing expertise to develop strong and effective
messages for the movement
• Web designers to create a website and online social networks and
communities to bring people together
• New supply and distribution pathways for fresh and healthful foods
• Establishment of a food range to generate a sustainable income for
• Corporate partners to invest in cooking and food education for their
customers and to champion honest food labeling