Forked Up Revolution

I'm sure many of you have tuned into Jamie Oliver's new series, 'Food Revolution', but if you haven't, it's definitely worth checking out. I'd like to say I'm shocked by the sheer ignorance of food displayed by the folks featured on the show - and I mean whole food - but the sad truth is, I'm not. It would be easy to look at those people and be smug in thinking our habits are better, but honestly, a trip to the grocery store would tell a different story.

This week, the flyer for my local grocer had a few deals marked 'free'. They were giving away a whole food product, but you had to buy a series of processed items in order to get the freebie. For example, you could get free bananas if you bought boxed pancake mix and syrup (corn based, not maple) or, you could get bagged salad greens if you bought 3 frozen entrees. The grocery store makes little profit on the whole food, so it's within their best interests to sell you the stuff in the middle aisles and freezer cases. This is 'value added' - meaning that what was once a whole food, is now a food product, containing new additives, lots of packaging, and a big price tag. The whole food begins to look worthless in comparison.

Another tactic I get sucked into regularly is point schemes. My local grocer participates in a travel miles program, which does have benefits just from shopping. However, they encourage you to buy a whole slew of food like products by giving bonus points for certain items. This week, they are cozy with Quaker, offering a large bonus to customers buying $25.00 worth of cereal, mixes, and rice snacks. It's the third time I've seen Captain Crunch in this flyer, so I'm guessing there's a glut that needs to be moved - to your stomach.

Alas, one cannot get frustrated by the current state, but continue to be optimistic about the future. I'm a firm believer that problems get solved not by dwelling on what doesn't work, but by focusing on incremental change, using what actually works. We cannot change overnight, but the solutions doled out are often part of an all or nothing approach that is impossible to take on without the discipline of a shaolin monk. Our biggest fear when making a change is failure - why would anyone take on something they believe can't work?

I think this is where Jamie Oliver needs a bit of help. His task is huge, but his approach needs to be smaller to start. The kids that ate the chicken carcass nuggets are so far removed from where food comes from that I think it would have been better for him to make healthy versions of food they recognize to start. Another strategy would have been to have the 'lunch ladies' eat the new meals and help him design the preparation before starting with the kids. If they were part of the solution from the beginning, they could have helped with the resistance. However, that wouldn't make for great TV now, would it?

The idea of a revolution implies major transformation and upheaval, but I truly believe the most effective changes start small and build momentum. We are a lot more green these days, and this did not happen overnight. It began with small steps to recycle, then compost, save energy, and so on. The food revolution will be most effective one bite at a time, and by encouraging everyone to make good choices when they can. Knowledge is power, and this power helps people make decisions not based on fear, but confirmation of success. 

That's my recipe for this week.


  1. You amaze me with your clear, logical - but more important - interesting approach to topics that could be quite boring...I love you! Mom


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