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TV chef Jamie Oliver shut out of L.A. school cafeterias

Chef and TV personality Jamie Oliver is bringing his “Food Revolution” to Southern California, talking to families who might participate in his spring reality TV series and opening a kitchen in West Los Angeles.

But he bemoans that he’s been shut out of L.A.’s public school cafeterias.

“I can’t get my foot into a single school. Which is a bit of a shame really,” he said by telephone Tuesday. “It just doesn’t seem in the interest of the public really. It’s not a great start for me, to be honest.”

His goal, he said, is to get people eating more fresh food and to improve their health. His “Feed Me Better” campaign looked at British school food, and last year ABC’s “Food Revolution” won an Emmy for its first season, which was set in schools and homes in Huntington, W.Va.

Oliver planned to speak to the Los Angeles school board Tuesday, during the time allotted for public comments. On Wednesday, he opens “Jamie’s Kitchen” in Westwood, where he said free cooking classes will be offered. And he is a keynote speaker Saturday at the annual meeting of the California School Nutrition Assn.

Whether he is allowed into a school or not, he said, he plans to work with families in their homes and with supermarkets and fast-food purveyors for episodes in a series to begin sometime in the spring.

Oliver speculated that the Los Angeles Unified School District refused his request to set his show in its cafeterias because officials may have feared how it would look on television. But he said his work has been “honorable,” and he came to Los Angeles with no preconceptions about its school food.

“Ultimately, I still think what happens in schools in food is an incredible weapon or problem in terms of the obesity epidemic,” Oliver said.

An L.A. Unified spokesman Monday said there is no chance for a change of heart.

“Reality TV has a formula. You either have to have drama or create conflict to be successful. We’re not interested in either,” Robert Alaniz said in an e-mail.

There certainly was drama and conflict in Huntington as Oliver cajoled cafeteria workers and met with families to try to reform eating habits. But even before Oliver went to Huntington, the district was committed to school food reform, and now most meals are cooked from scratch, said district spokesman Jedd Flowers.

“We want to be on the right side of history,” Flowers said.

Change has not been easy, however. "We’re having some trouble getting the kids to eat the food," Flowers said. "It’s a change that’s going to take some time.”

At the start of the school year last fall, more children were taking their food to school and “unfortunately, generally not a healthy lunch,” he said.

“We're hoping that, over time, these numbers will improve as students begin to accept the healthier menu items,” he said.

The Huntington district has 12,700 children, and about half of them qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. In Los Angeles, 80% of the 680,000 students qualify.

And unlike in Los Angeles, where many school meals are made in central kitchens, almost all of Huntington’s schools have working kitchens, Flowers said.

In Los Angeles, affluent Westwood was chosen for the TV series' kitchen because of its centrality and convenience, production sources said. Oliver moved his family to Southern California, but his children will not be eating L.A. Unified food. They will attend private school.


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Comments () | Archives (46)

What can we do to get Jamie in our schools? Since all the food in LA Unified is prepared in a central location, this should make it ideal for Jamie to impact many children at MANY schools. I'm looking at a monthly menu right now. Let's see, my son has a choice of a calzone or a bean and cheese burrito today. I see pizza, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese (they call it "au gratin"), and toasted cheese sandwiches on other days. Wake up LA Unified! Let Jamie in! What are you afraid of? The truth? Even with all the budget cuts LA Unified has suffered with recently, Jamie can still help make nutritious choices and he can make it affordable, just as he did in Huntington. Please, reconsider and bring Jamie to our schools!!!

Jamie should come and sort out our school in LA - it's private but our kids are still subjected to disgusting school lunches and the parents need help convincing the school and the catering company to change for the better - plus it's French so they should know better about food and coming together to eat - but no...

Jamie Oliver FIND ME !
I've worked in a public institution that prepared meals for children and believe me the kitchen is not trained correctly in any way and I am very willing to help uncover the wrongs that go on in our school kitchens .

ScatteredMom is right: The menus make the food sound somewhat healthy-minus the coffee cake for breakfast-but in reality it's over processed white flour/white sugar with no fiber and little nutrition. My daughter is in a magnet program and most kids bring their own lunches. It would be nice to have a hot meal option, but even my 7-year-old daughter doesn't want to eat it. And the worst thing is that, due to the low nutritional content, when she does eat it she's hungry an hour later. I have mixed feelings about letting a production crew on campus, but I'd like to see LAUSD shamed into preparing real food.

Do you know about LA's new trend, Empanadas party with Nonna's Empanadas?

Once one starts trying to work with these big bureaucracies, one finds out WHY Jaimie cannot make the nutritious and appetizing food for LA City Schools. The schools are getting big bucks for big business, and even if Jamie can provide better food for less money, it does not fit the business model.

I recently tried to convince another city committee to try to resolve the problems with residents first with a friendly solution based approach. They were only interested in bullying the homeowners into submission.

I would like to see Jaime work with U.S. Department of education to provide nutritional education and quality food to the kids. Let him team up with a nutritionist and an education expert.

Jamie Oliver just wants younger generation Y & Z to eat varieties of fruits & vegetables, & not just junk food. There is nothing wrong with changing for the better. Have a cafeteria with a varieties of food & enjoy it because of being healthy. Stay healthy, drink milk, orange juice, etc....

In an effort to save money, many LAUSD elementary schools do not have working kitchens. Satellite kitchens are used to package food. The food is then sent to schools for heating.

Hey Jamie, if things don't work out with LAUSD try Culver City. It's practically down the street from Westwood.

Academic performance relies on having good food. I began high school in the public school system, where the food was mass-produced filth. I was an average student. I later transferred to a private school where it simply was out of the question not to have a balanced diet, with plenty of veggies, no junk food, lots of milk and water at meals.Every lunch was followed by a compulsory 40 minute nap.
The change in me was immediate, I suddenly took up sport, woke up early every morning . By breakfast at 7am I would have had 2 hours study and 1 hour jogging....I was 14. I got As in 12 of the 14 subjects I wrote, some of these subjects were not offered by my school, I enrolled and studied on my own.
None of this would have happened on pizza and fizzy drinks - I know this for a fact. You can't play any sport on junk. Sport brings mental sharpness and confidence, confidence is half the battle. There can be no motivation with no energy. Look at all the successful people today, I bet many of those people exercise regularly and show reasonable health.

I am sure Westwood is centrally located and convenient - for Jamie and his production team. Yet this affluent community has a Ralphs, Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and a weekly farmers' market all within a mile of each other. If he really wanted to improve people's eating habits, he would have located in one of LA's many food desserts where they have no supermarkets or access to fresh fruits and veggies, where their only food choices are fast food and overpriced convenience stores with unhealthy crap. Maybe in Season Three he can put his money where his mouth is - no pun intended.


i agree with him. the svhoool food is horrible. most of the kids that i know dont eat in school and thats lack of nutrients. without the nutrients that the food should prrovide their ability to think is much loweer than it should be.

kinda flys ina face of Cali image fit&healthy

The reason the Los Angeles Unified School District refused Jamie's request to set his show is probably because they are afraid to show the public what they've been feeding the kids. All in all, the kids' health is more important than their image. If Jamie's show is going to help raise awareness about healthy diet, we should support it whether there's no guaranteed it'll succeed. It's all for the sake of the kids.

LAUSD and Pasadena USD are factories of nothing except for teachers and students that produce nothing but garbage.

Look at the results. Let's take Pasadena - Pasadena HS, John Muir, and Marshall. See the test results of crime, low test scores, violence, and affected areas of criminal behavior. Take a look at the history of these HS campuses. All we show is low test scores, ineffectual teachers, and uncaring parents.

Jamie, you're a nice guy but they don't deserve your graciousness and care because those administrators that are to regulate school policy has taken a back door to ignore a larger problem.

Heck, I wouldn't even eat at an LAUSD school cafeteria, and I can eat just about ANYTHING.... except ahat rotgut.

History is going to show that the p-eople at LAUSD got off on the wroing side of the fence and they're too proud to say so.... at the expense of YOUR kids.

Everyone seems to be complaining about the food LAUSD provides to its students. My question is: are you PAYING for the food offered to your child? If you are NOT PAYING FOR IT, then provide your child with food you deem acceptable and stop CRABBING about it.

I ate the rice, chicken and vegetable entree at my LAUSD school today and it was delicious. Of course I had to pay for it.

We don't need a Brit telling LA kids what to eat. Guiness with some bangers and mash anyone?

Send him home with Beckam and Vicky.

Go the Long Beach and ask the Long Beach Unified School District - I imagine they will let you in!

This only confirms that los angeles public schools are meant to keep our society down and out and fat and then die early so as not to upset the budget that is so negative ........EVERYTHING IS NEGATIVE ABOUT THE WAY THEY TREAT THE KIDS IN PUBLIC SCHOOL.. HOW DO ANY KIDS HAVE A CHANCE FOR CHANGE WHEN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM IF BROKEN.......


My 8 year old stepchild goes to one of the top 10 private elementary schools in Los Angeles (cost $25,000 a year). The school uses an outside catering firm and let the children's parents choose from a menu in advance. So my husband's ex-wife (who is overweight), allows our daughter to eat cheese pizza every time it's offered (at least once a week), and other foods like hot dogs, and burgers. So when she comes to visit us, and we try to feed her food that requires utensils she has a hard time using them and doesn't want to eat the food. But if we disguise the food by making it look like the food she is use to she will eat it. So for example if we buy turkey cutlets and cook all the fat out of them and make them chicken nugget size and put them in a snack size plastic bag she will eat them, and even ask for them. So here is a situation where since it's a divorced household and her mother has custody there is nothing I can do except try to trick her into eating well some of the time, without the kid saying we are mean and refusing to come spend time with us. The school should not even allow this catering company to offer such food, knowing that if one kid gets it then all the other kids will want it. What's the point of paying for private school to try to give the kids a safe and educational environment if that stops at the lunchroom door. My child needs good food to fuel her education and good eating habits so that she can continue to be healthy once she is an adult.

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