Last night marked the final episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Now that Oliver will no longer be on the teevee on a weekly basis, will the issue of school lunches and children's nutrition fade away? Will it be engulfed by the next hot topic or celebrity sex scandal? Or has he made a mark in the national consciousness?
A quick Google search for "jamie oliver's food revolution" doesn't turn up a lot of articles in the past 24 hours that aren't related to either ABC or Oliver's own website and Facebook page, discounting personal blog postings. This suggests to me that the show has already begun to fade from the public consciousness.
For a great look at the show read a series in The Atlantic penned by Kate Adamick, principal of Food Systems Solutions LLC. As a consultant on school food reform, she helps schools across America serve cooked-from-scratch meals. In other words, she was doing what Oliver was trying to do before he was and will still be doing it once he has moved on to his next project.
The money quote on her review of the last episode:
Maybe, as is so often the case, it comes down to little more than semantics. While we have long chosen to refer to schools as "institutions of learning," this designation places the onus for what happens during the school day squarely on the shoulders of the students—the intended beneficiaries of the educational process. Perhaps if we collectively choose to call schools "institutions of teaching," we could restore the responsibility for what happens in those once-venerated halls to those who should be accountable: the adults who need to heed Oliver's advice—before it's too late.
Normally I like to post links in my diaries but I have found little to which I can link on this subject. Therefore this diary will have to fall under the label of an Opinion piece. So be it. Maybe if I make this disclaimer I can fend off demands for citations and data. Probably not but it's worth a shot. Either you have seen the show or you haven't. If you would like to watch, the show can be found at ABC's website as well as on hulu.
And now to address the question that I asked in the title. Will the show have much of an impact? I suspect that the show itself will fade into the mist of the reality television. However, I think that Oliver probably did make an actual contribution to Cabell County and the city of Huntington, WV. It doesn't matter if all of his changes are fully implemented in the school system. It doesn't matter if his downtown kitchen gets shuttered and forgotten. I think that the people who actually met and interacted with Oliver will be affected by his presence. They, in turn, will somewhat affect the people they know. I don't know if this will make for quantifiable differences but they will be real changes nonetheless.
Then there are the rest of us, those outside of Huntington. How will we be affected by the show? This is where the debate gets muddy. Of course some people will have watched the show and will change the way they feed and teach their children. Then again, there is the larger number of people who never watched the show in the first place. Of course they will most likely not be affected by the show. The answer to the effect of the show lies somewhere between these two groups.
The question will be answered by the debate over the 2010 Food Safety and Agriculture bills that will go before the Senate in the next few weeks. The question will be answered by the number of people who choose to read Marion Nestle's Food Politics. The question will be answered by the number of people who learn about alice Waters and the Chez Panisse Foundation. The question, ultimately will be answered by the American public in how we choose to feed ouselves.
What about you Kossacks? What are your answers to my question?