Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver of the Naked Chef fame has once again raised the stakes in his quest to change the world’s eating habits. This time he has pledged to contribute his own millions over a 10-year period to improve food education in UK primary schools, saying that he wants to touch 1,000 of the over 20,000 schools. He wants to fund this by passing on a percentage of profits from every single company that he has, which are a lot, since the 34-year-old is currently on the list of UK’s richest. But beyond that, he is also known as one of the most generous, with him to appear at the 22nd spot on the Time’s Giving List, having given away an estimated £2.7million (US$3.6 million) to charity.
Jamie has always been at war with unhealthy fare. In 2005, he was part of the show Jamie’s School Dinners, a documentary that featured him running a children’s school in Greenwich for a year. He began a Feed Me Better campaign to improve the standards of Britain’s school meals and because of his efforts, acknowledged by Tony Blair himself, the UK government pledged £280m on school dinners for 3 years.
In March, researchers reported that primary pupils who took part in the Feed Me Better scheme achieved better results than those in neighboring boroughs and were less likely to be off sick from school. Their schools had replaced junk food and processed meals with healthy school lunches.
Jamie recently set his sights on America by embarking on Food Revolution, a reality TV show where he aims to change America’s unhealthy eating habits by starting with its unhealthiest city – Huntington, West Virginia. But apparently this does not mean that his UK mission is over.
“The pot of money would be used to create a mechanism of food that the schools can bid for,” he tells BBC. “If, in terms of parents and teachers, they can put all their ducks in a row then literally hundreds of thousands of pounds will be spent on that school. It will build gardens, build school kitchens, give them seeds and fruit trees as well as teaching collateral including web sites, DVDs and conferences.” He also plans to provide mentors who will help provide full food education support.
“It only takes 2% to change anything,” he claims. “We’ll use that private, entrepreneurial, idea – that is obsessed by relevance and making a true, real tangible change to children and their parents – to then come up with a model. And we’ll say to government, ‘now I’ve proved it – let’s do it’.”
It sounds like a lucrative plan that may actually work, like the Food Revolution petition that he is circling around in America so that he can show the US government how many people believe that the issue is important, thereby having leverage to convince them to do something about it.
“It’ll work, just give me 10 years,” he says. Even though his Food Revolution in America supposedly failed, it’s actually too soon to tell. Major changes take time. Maybe he’s right about the ten years.