English world-saving chef Jamie Oliver is bringing his Emmy Award-winning reality show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution to Los Angeles. So, hooray, Oliver is going to fix up the lunches served in the Los Angeles school district! Well, no. The Los Angeles Unified School District turned down his offer.
"Our feeling was that his time would be better spent or invested in other communities," Melissa Infusino, the director of partnerships in the superintendent's office, told the Los Angeles Times. A letter sent to Oliver's show from the school district said thanks, but no thanks:
The letter said: "While we appreciate your interest in our school meal program, we believe our direct work with nutrition experts, health advocates, the community, schools and students is the most effective strategy for our continued success and improvement." Citing budgetary problems including a shortened school year, the letter claimed that "participation in the 'Food Revolution' program would prevent us from committing 100% of our efforts to our students." The letter suggested that Oliver instead work on issues like food deserts.
There's no denying that Jamie Oliver knows what he's doing. After a similar television program aired in England in 2005, he collected over 270,000 signatures and basically shamed then-prime minister Tony Blair into providing an extra £280 million to improve the quality of school meals.
Season one of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, set in West Virginia, was in some respects pretty damning: Inescapable contracts for frozen and processed food, pizza for breakfast, considering french fries a serving of vegetables, and first-graders who couldn't even identify a tomato. Oliver couldn't even get the school administrators to get rid of chocolate or pink-flavored milk.
For the Los Angeles school district to say, "We got it, thanks," is pretty dismissive of a huge opportunity to work with an expert to, you know, actually do something good. Okay, fine, the school board in LA banned soda sales in 2004, but is it really so bad in Los Angeles schools that they don't want cameras to document it? Is it maybe that school cafeterias don't get proper health inspections? Or maybe it's the super-creepy fingerprint scanners? What, exactly, do they have to hide?