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Jamie Oliver's coming to save America!

February 26, 2010 |  7:11 pm

Jamie oliver Jamie Oliver, the Brit celebrity chef who took on the school lunch program in England, is over in the U.S. to try to do the same.

In "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," which premieres March 26 on ABC, he tries to clean up the eating act of Huntington, W.Va. That town was chosen -- of course! -- because according to a 2008 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention report, it's the unhealthiest city in America. Read about Huntington in this AP story. Nearly half the population over the age of 20 is obese, the article says, and there are more pizza places listed in the phone book than there are gyms and health clubs in the entire state.

Can Jamie make a difference??

From Mr. Oliver's website: "Needled by local naysayers, challenged by ingrained unhealthy habits and government bureaucracy, and welcomed by some of the most surprising youngsters, families and local leaders, Jamie shows how, in just a few short months, he tried to transform Huntington as a template for the entire country."

Note the phrase "in just a few short months" and the word "tried." Anyone want to make bets?

Take a look at clips here. In one, he's in a tense showdown with very-ticked-off-looking kitchen staff at a school, as he tells them that what they are serving up is muck. (And if so, how little changes! Ah, those jokes trotted out by my dad about school dinners being "YMCA -- yesterday's muck cooked again, haha"...)

"What's wrong with that?" asks one kitchen-staffer as Oliver holds up something that looks like a piece of shriveled meat.  "What's wrong with that? What's right with that? Would you eat that?" demands Jamie. Clearly, this is going to be compelling TV. 

If there is push-back, it won't be anything Jamie Oliver hasn't seen before. The most famous case in England was in the town of Rawmarsh, where several mothers started delivering burgers and chips (french fries) to kids at a school -- passing them through the railings -- so the pupils wouldn't have to eat the healthful fare Oliver was having the school dish up. The parents were excoriated -- called, among other things, "Sinner Ladies" (staff in charge of lunches at Brit schools are called "dinner ladies")  and one of them, "the worst mum in Britain."

Here's an interview with the mothers from a few years back.

And here's a picture of the moms at work.

From Marion Nestle, over at her Food Politics blog, about the new show: "Is his campaign about theater or is this real public health?  I guess we’ll have to watch and decide."

--Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Claudia Schmiedt / Associated Press