Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Los Angeles Unified School District: A Team of Cowards

When it comes to administrators and cafeteria staff ensuring that our children have the best food available to them at school, what should they have to hide? Well, if you're talking about the Los Angeles Unified School District school board, apparently there is a lot to hide. In fact, they appear to be so apprehensive about the general public knowing what is spooned onto their students' trays each day that they have fought tooth and nail to keep Jamie Oliver and his camera crew out.

Oliver, the Essex, England-born chef who has made it a personal crusade to improve the food provided to boys and girls in school - and, through side projects, to help families make wiser and more healthy dietary choices - is now in season two of a show which I love, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. After a successful first season tackling the cafeterias of Huntington, West Virginia, Oliver has moved on to Los Angeles. Through two weeks, we've seen him blocked at every turn from even stepping foot into a cafeteria to simply look at what's being served, much less into the kitchens to see how it is prepared.

I don't even live in California, but I think that this is utterly disgraceful. The LAUSD's argument is that this "reality show" would cause chaos in the schools were Oliver and his crew to be allowed in. Apparently, the superintendent, Ramon Cortines (and yes, I've linked his name to his email address), has never actually watched a reality show. This isn't "The Apprentice" or "Survivor" or "Amazing Race"; there are no drunk kids wasting their lives as you would see on "Real World", and there is no "Jersey Shore" plot where ... well, drunk kids are wasting their lives.

This is about the lives of the children. I strongly believe that good dietary standards start at the home, and parents bear a lion's share of the responsibility here. However, school is about more than mental education; there is also physical education and good health - areas where the board of LAUSD seems to have fallen down.

No, Jamie Oliver still has not been allowed into a school cafeteria in Los Angeles, but the school did recently announce that they were improving the school menu a bit. They were quick to point out, however, that this is something that was in the works for a while and not something where they felt a responsibility to do so as a result of the pressure brought to bear by Oliver. For that, I'm proud to present them with the Pee Wee Herman Award, the motto of which is, "I meant to do that."

I would encourage everyone to sign Jamie's petition for the Food Revolution; our kids deserve the best. I also encourage you to watch this video, which is Jamie's TED Award speech from 2010. It definitely gives you a lot to think about...

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