Good for the Los Angeles Unified School District and Superintendent Ramon Cortines for refusing to engage in the Jamie Oliver food circus.
After reducing the size of West Virginia’s children, Oliver decided to head west–selecting Los Angeles as the location for the second season of his hit show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The LA school district enrolls 650,000 mostly low-income children and serves 1.2 million meals daily. But, there was a bump in the road along the way.
The district said no. A previous sour experience with reality show “School Pride,” which used reenactments of made up incidents and left the school district with a bill, factored into Superintendent Ramon Cortines’ decision, as well as reports from Cabell County Schools, district spokesman Alaniz said.
However, West Adams Preparatory High School in Central Los Angeles, which is run by nonprofit MLA Partner Schools under contract with LAUSD, allowed Oliver on campus as a curriculum addition. After two weeks of filming, the district caught wind of it and booted the show.
“We aren’t happy about it,” said Mike McGalliard, president of MLA Partner Schools. “I told the district you guys are making a big fuss over nothing. It’s not an expose. It’s an incredible program.” Nearly half of West Adams students are obese, he said, and all qualify for free lunches which feature items such as chicken nuggets and corn dogs, with sides like raw broccoli.
Oliver planted a community garden, mentored culinary arts students, lectured about portion size, caloric intake and diet-related disease, and set up a nearby community kitchen to give free classes in cooking fare such as roast chicken. “They think Jamie is the threat. The threat is diabetes and high cholesterol,” said senior Caleb Villanueva, 17.
But, let’s not forget, in the West Virginia episodes of his show, Jamie Oliver used a bit of dramatic flare to get his point across–and it looked an awful lot like exploitation. In one totally unnecessary scene with the mother of an overweight boy, Oliver prepared a mountain of unhealthy food and made the mother look at it while lecturing her that she was hurting her children. The mother ended up crying and contrite and then, in what could only be an unintentionally hilarious scene, ended up burying her deep fryer in a shallow grave in the backyard.
I don’t like those types of theatrics and I suspect the LA school board doesn’t either. The fact is, Oliver would have staged similar dramatic scenes. It’s unavoidable if you want to get ratings for your reality television show because, of course, reality isn’t really all that exciting.
And while Oliver is painting this episode in LA as a loss for the children, its important to point out that Oliver wasn’t persona non grata with the school officials. In fact, they invited him in…sans cameras.
The six-episode show was to revolve around one of Oliver’s favorite causes – making school lunches healthier – but ran under a rolling pin when the Los Angeles Unified School District objected to the chef’s key ingredient – TV cameras. “We’re interested in Jamie Oliver the food activist, not Jamie the reality TV star,” said Robert Alaniz, district spokesman. “We’ve invited him to work with our menu committee, but there’s too much drama, too much conflict with a reality show.”
How quaint…offering advice and your expert assistance without cameras. I guess that’s a little too quaint for Oliver.