Food Revolution—Great Concept, Aggressive Approach

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Petition

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Petition

Tonight I watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and I have to say, I was taken for a little bit of a loop. The premise of the show is Jamie Oliver leaves his England home to come to Huntington, West Virginia to “save” it from its 2008 diagnosis as the world’s most unhealthy city according to MSNBC. The show follows him as he fights his way into the hearts and stomachs of the sometimes resistant residents.

Overall the show is pretty good. The production value is everything we’ve come to expect in this reality-show culture, and the message is quite possibly one of the most important topics facing American families today. The problem I have with the show is the often preachy, sometimes  condescending approach Jamie takes with the residents of Huntington. I can’t help but compare it to what I call the “Dances with Wolves” syndrome where the purpose driven, privileged outsider feels the necessity to join the natives in order to save them from their inevitable destruction. It’s the same rhetoric echoed time and time again spanning every form from missionaries to politics to relationship counseling. “I have the answer. You don’t. Let me help you.” It’s a bit righteous. (Although I realize I also sound righteous just by making this statement. Unfortunately I think it’s unavoidable.)

What’s the answer then? After all without this approach, we would have to discredit most international and local development initiatives as well as most social and civil changes that’s ever benefited anyone. The fact is people have to be informed in order to make a better decision. The question is how to inform them without coming across as authoritative.

My wife, whom I owe a great deal for relentlessly trying to get me to see more diplomatically, refers to her experience in the Peace Corps. She says to get the village on the path towards change, you have to speak with the chief and convince him. Once you have his vote, then the village will follow. She then takes this further and explains the chief as being more metaphoric. We all have an internal chief, guiding us towards rewards and turning our heads away from danger (well most of the time). When someone comes at us aggressively demanding that our ways our wrong, our internal chief automatically tells us to put our guard up. Aggression triggers a sense of danger, and danger makes us defensive. But if that same person comes to us asking to join us and learn our ways without asking for anything in return, at least at first, then our chief welcomes them in. This establishes a seedling of trust. That seedling then can grow into a full blossom. Only then can that person start to make suggestions and truly invoke change.

Now I don’t mean to harp on what Jamie Oliver’s trying to do. In fact I whole heartedly believe in it. In fact I signed his Food Revolution petition. Obesity is a dangerous and growing trend. Diabetes is sneaking into more and more families’ lives at alarming rates. Schools, fast food, and grocery stores are all marketing food that is unnatural and nutritiously lacking. Something needs to change. I love that between writers like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser and well known chefs like Jamie Oliver and Alton Brown, the message of sustainable and healthy eating is being told louder and louder each day. The message needs to be said. It needs to be taught. It needs to be accepted and enforced. The message can and will change lives, but the change has to come from an open heart, and not a defensive one. Alright, I’m done telling you how it is now.


  1. i liked watching that show too. i’m sure it’s a huge eye-opener for some of the parents (and that’s why ty only gets hot lunch 2x a month…).

    but you do bring up a good point. i suppose he did come across as aggressive in his approach. but i don’t know if part of that was due to the fact that he only had a limited amount of time?

    anyway, i agree with you in building trust with someone in order to introduce what can be life-changing information. when you approach others you want to inform/educate with love and compassion you can begin to plant seeds in their hearts. as you nurture, care and “water” these seeds, they will thrive and grow “on the path towards change…”

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