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L.A. school district fights back at Jamie Oliver over quality of school food

April 13, 2011 |  4:05 pm

The Los Angeles Unified School District moved swiftly Wednesday to respond to a celebrity chef’s reality show that portrayed the district as stonewalling his work to bring healthy food into schools and combat obesity.

Jamie Oliver, a British chef, brought his “Food Revolution” TV show to Los Angeles for its second season. In the premiere Tuesday night, Oliver portrays it as a David and Goliath-type fight, with the superintendent and board of the nation’s second-largest school district preventing him from making positive changes.

In response, the district invited reporters Wednesday to its Eastside food preparation facility. District officials said they provided students with fresh and healthy meals -- a herculean task, considering the volumes of meals they serve and that they have only 77 cents per meal with which to do it.

Meanwhile, the district said Oliver was welcome to come in and offer whatever suggestions he had on handling the menu within the limitation the schools have been given. He just has to leave the cameras behind.

The district is wary of reality television -- and the “conflict and drama” the genre can bring -- after negative experiences in the past, said Robert Alaniz, an L.A. Unified spokesman. For example, the district consented to take part in the NBC show “School Pride” but had to pick up a more than $100,000 tab to redo what it said was shoddy workmanship.

Officials feared that granting Oliver’s request would only bring more of the same.

-- Rick Rojas