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 obesity epidemic.
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 food theater
• 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 the campaign
• Corporate partners to invest in cooking and food education for their customers and to champion honest food labeling