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Is Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' behind LAUSD menu changes?

April 13, 2011 |  3:12 pm

Jamie During the Season 2 premiere of "Food Revolution" Tuesday night, British chef and healthy eating advocate Jamie Oliver gave the thumbs-down to Los Angeles Unified School District lunch items such as sugar-laden brownies, pastries and chocolate milk and carb-filled pizza.

On Wednesday, the LAUSD fired back with a revamped menu that officials won't attribute to Oliver's pressure but instead said has been in the works for some time. Among the new entrees, beginning next school year, will be Salvadorean beef stew, chicken tandoori, Asian pad thai, California sushi roll and teriyaki beef and broccoli with brown rice.

Oliver, who's on a crusade to help obese Americans lighten their loads, was locked out of Los Angeles' schools, though he'd planned to base the new season of his Emmy-winning ABC show in its lunch rooms. The tirelessly chipper chef gave himself some credit on Wednesday for LAUSD's menu changes, while still prodding officials to go further.

"Good news that the 'Food Revolution' has people talking about what Los Angeles schools are feeding our kids," Oliver said in a statement. "Wouldn't it be great if we could find out what the kids are actually eating; where the food comes from; what's on the ingredients' lists; and who is really doing the cooking."

From a viewer perspective, Tuesday night audiences treated "Food Revolution" a little like a plate of plain broccoli. The show drew 5.3 million viewers, a 36% drop from its first season premiere.

"Food Revolution" has been shooting in L.A., but because it's been denied access to LAUSD it's fanning out to cover a wider swath of the city and its eating habits. Oliver also set up a kitchen in Westwood where he asked parents to bring in examples of LAUSD's cuisine, which he examined in the debut episode and likened to "airplane food."

LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the country, serves 122 million meals a year. Officials organized a media tour on Wednesday of its central kitchen, with samples of its food.

Oliver said he hoped that event "is a signal that LAUSD is willing to work with concerned parents and local activists to make the system truly transparent."

As for being shut out of the local schools, Oliver said, "Our dialogue with LAUSD is ongoing and I'm optimistic that they will be able to implement real changes that have a long-lasting impact for L.A. kids."

There's apparently no change in his persona non grata status, at least as far as filming at LAUSD schools or officially reworking its cafeterias. Officials had offered to consult with Oliver and hear his ideas, without cameras and reality show producers.

But, obviously, that's not a TV show.

LAUSD's refusal to allow Oliver into its system, including scenes of the chef getting kicked off school property, is woven into the second season.

RELATED:

With or without LAUSD, 'Food Revolution' returns

'Food Revolution' recap: Season 2 gets underway

 -- T.L. Stanley

Photo: Jamie Oliver at the California School Nutrition Assn. in January. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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