When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have my grandfather show me how to grow strawberries, stake tomatoes, and pluck Japanese beetles from Concord grapes, eventually followed by the pleasures of eating ripe fruit from the vine (even if Hostess’ Twinkies were my true love).
Consequently, some of the most rewarding reporting I’ve done has been about school gardens — but even so, I rarely thought much about hyperkinetic chef Jamie Oliver, who has pushed healthy eating for so long that I tend to zone out his frequent calls to action. The father of four has rarely waned in his mission, though, and he has dubbed May 15 (today) Food Revolution Day, devoted to promoting the “global campaign to put compulsory practical food education on the school curriculum.” Essentially, he wants to compel schools to teach children how to grow and cook nutritious food.
Even though Oliver’s efforts have spanned a decade, the reasons behind them haven’t much changed. Visitors to the Food Revolution Day website encounter some arresting facts: 42 million children worldwide are overweight or obese, and “Children today are the first generation predicted to live shorter lives than their parents.” An impassioned Oliver blasts rising rates of diabetes and disease among children, offers up recipes for dishes such as vegan shepherd’s pie and chocolate-and-beetroot cake, and urges people to sign a petition to “inspire governments to do the right thing.” (1.2 million have signed so far).
The pièce de résistance was revealed earlier today: A video of Paul McCartney, Hugh Jackman, Alesha, and other notables rapping about food education, a song that was written by Ed Sheeran. While Food Revolution Day is a solidly U.K.-borne effort, the campaign is going crazy on Twitter, with hundreds of tweets pouring in from across the world every half hour.
Oliver has often singled out Americans’ unflagging love of junk food. So what’s happening stateside? Lots, especially on the meetings front. The 8th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference happens in San Diego on June 29-July 2. The Partnership for Healthy America, which works with private enterprise to end childhood obesity, is planning their next Building A Healthier Future Summit for May 18-20, 2016, in Washington, D.C. We have dozens of conferences on the regional level, too, as well as a famous First Lady who has thrown her weight behind the cause.
Not every child has that opportunity to learn where food comes from, or why they should eat some grapes instead of a cream-filled sponge cake with 37 ingredients. Will today change that?