Last year Jamie Oliver decided to bring his successful school lunch reformation program from the U.K. to the U.S. He tried to gross people out; he dressed like a pea pod; he fought with lunch ladies; he reduced a mother to tears and then cried himself. In the end, he wasn't very successful. This time, he's trying his luck in Los Angeles.
But whoops, the L.A. U.S.D caught wind of his plan and banned him from all school property. So he went on the radio show of co-producer Ryan Seacrest and took calls from concerned parents about how bad school lunch is. He remarks that he wouldn't know, what with not being able to get into the lunch rooms, but asks concerned citizens to join him in the community kitchen he's set up. He gets a decent turn out, and many of the kids come bearing school lunch. How'd they smuggle that out of the cafeteria? Anyway, it's all packaged food that looks like Little Debbies treats, but are things like waffles and pancakes. Three little boys ha
ve brought apples; Jamie is flummoxed until they explain they're home schooled. It would be obnoxious if they weren't so earnest and cute. Parents are mad because school food has put their kids off of healthy food.
And then Jamie "learns" the sorry fact of school lunch prep: all schools have cafeterias, but the food (various items of which he holds up for the crowd to identify, but a lot of them remain a mystery) is prepared in a central kitchen and then packed in individual plastic wraps to be microwaved at the individual schools. Jamie thinks the parents in L.A. must have thought the lunches in Huntington last year were great in comparison.
Then he leads in a "stunt cow" on which he has the individual meat cuts and prices marked. Showing kids that meat comes from cute cows is not the sort of thing likely to make them appreciate whole, healthy meats, but whatever. Then he moves into the gross out section of his presentation, clearing away the yummy cu
ts of meat on display in favor of what he calls "pink slime.!
" Does h
e not remember how the last time he did this the kids still wanted the revolting food? And he was completely despondent? Anyway, he lays it out: the waste from the carcasses goes to a rendering plant to be turned into food for chickens and dogs, because dogs can process it (nothing about the chickens, though, who are not really evolved to eat cow). However, the USDA allows for the waste to be turned into pink slime and put in school foods. He puts the parts in a washing machine to spin it, adds an ammonia and water solution, and then minces them. Now it's hamburger! For burgers and chili and tacos! He points out that manufacturers don't have to add ammonia to ingredients lists. He exhorts his audience to get their beef ground in front of them, and also to stick up for him. Guess he did learn his lesson, since he didn't make an actual taco or burger out of the pink slime, only to have the kids eat it and kill his soul.
Next up is a scene at Casa Jamie, where his eld
est daughter recites a script about how schools should know what's in their food. Then he goes to a school board meeting, where he takes advantage of a free-speaking forum at the end of the meeting (since his request to be added to the agenda was denied. He has to wait for mothers with attendance issues and crazy guys ranting about the seventh seal and other biblical things. He goes on too long and the superintendent finally cuts him off and says that the head of food services (who just happens to be in the back of the room) would be glad to deal with him. Except whoops! Once he gets outside he ends up with a P.R. guy, who gives him the blow off. The crazy seventh seal guy tries to comfort him with a pamphlet.
So he tries coming at the issue from another angle, and making a small independent fast food place healthy. It's a doomed effort; Jamie is shocked that the owner doesn't want to remove successful items from the menu, and then Jamie makes a grass-fed, etc. b
urger which is good but twice as expensive, which clearly wo!
and then Jamie makes a yogurt smoothie and he and Dino, the owner, have a loooong, boring fight about semantics and the, like, true essence of a milkshake. It seems as though in L.A., of all places, Jamie could make a go of setting up a healthy fast food place. That might even be interesting.
Defeated, he goes off to the California School Nutrition Association conference. One of the sessions is about the necessity of keeping flavored milks in school lunch rooms. This is perhaps Jamie's particular bug-a-bear, and he engages the presenter in an argument about how flavored milks are banned in Europe because they're so full of sugar and dyes and etc. The presenter counters that kids won't drink as much milk if it's not flavored (because milk is gross, yo, even if Angie Harmon is shilling for it these days) and Jamie snidely wonders if that means all apples should come candy-coated. Don't give them ideas, Jamie, jeez. It would have been interesting to hear more of the
flavored-milk guy's presentation, but instead, it's stunt time!
Jamie puts out the word and expects thousands, but only a handful of people show up to watch him fill a school bus with the amount of sugar consumed in school lunches by the students in the district. By the time he's done, the bus is full and the sugar is piled dunes around it. People are duly sobered. Jamie complains that the people of L.A. don't care about kids. The End. Until next week, when Jamie maybe fights the law.