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Americans Can Learn From The British, Who Are Booting Junk Food Out of Their Schools

Posted Dec 18 2008 8:14pm

Hats off to the British! As a junk-food-fighting American, I'm blown away by this phenomenal story that's coming out of Great Britain.

Our brethen overseas have given us Americans a powerful model to emulate that involves pairing the potency of a hip, young, chef/TV celebrity with an outpouring of public support from the citizens to literally embarass the government into providing an infusion of funds to upgrade the foods served in the schools.

Now, Great Britain is gearing up for a massive nutrition overhaul in the schools, made possible by a governmental allocation of £280m over the next three years, with some £220m going to improving ingredients and targeting areas with the poorest services.

That means low-quality cookies, chips, cheap burgers and bangers, chocolate, fizzy drinks and other junk food will get the boot from the schools, as the Associated Press and Times of London report. 

Indeed, earlier this week, the British government announced plans "to ban school cafeterias from serving poor-quality hamburgers and hot dogs, and to outlaw vending machines selling soft drinks, chocolate bars and potato chips to students."

According to media reports from the BBC News and others, the campaign to serve better food in the schools was pioneered by industrious, dedicated 20-something British sensation Jamie Oliver, “The Naked Chef” on the Food Network.

For those of us who are in the dark, the Food Network tells us on its website, " Sorry to disappoint you -- it's not the chef that's naked, it's the food!"


Evidently, Oliver -- described by the Food Network as "streetwise and passionate about food"-- was dismayed by the poor quality of food served in British schools. So he got to work cooking up a scheme to pressure the British government.

First, he concocted a cutting-edge TV series, "Feed Me Better: starting a revolution in your school dining hall -- Jamie's School Dinners,"

Then, he blended in and scrambled a whopping 271,677 signatures of support, which he then elegantly served to Prime Minister Tony Blair.(Send him an e-mail to show your support for this exciting program!)

Presto! His TV creation, combined with the John and Jane Does of thousands, lit a fire under governmental authorities.

All of a sudden, British school officials started popping up all over the news, trumpeting their fabulous new foods-in-the-schools program. .

I love it!

Earlier this week, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly told the annual conference of the governing Labour Party that "the scandal of junk food served every day" in British schoosl must end.

Kelly crowed to the BBC News that the new cash would "transform what is offered to children and teenagers in our schools so that high-quality healthy food is on every child's plate".

But the best sound bite -- darn, wish I could see a video of this -- came from Suzi Leather, chair of the School Meals Review Board, a group that was set up by the government to oversee the improvement of school meals.

"No child should be bamboozled into eating a diet which harms them," she said.

As I sit over here in America lamenting the fate of our nation's school children, I appeal to the following:

  • Jamie Oliver, would you please help us Americans cook up such a dazzling, attention-getting nation-wide scheme to get good food in our schools, too?
  • Yoo hoo, you hot American celebrities, which one or two or more of you will step forward and lead the way so that we can force our American government into action, as Oliver did?
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