The revolution heats up

“This is war,” Jamie declared as he plotted a way to get into at least one school in LA, after being rejected by the school board. He dressed up as a tomato, stirred up an e-mail campaign and handed out free healthy lunches for parents to give to their kids.

He finally gained entry into a “contract school” that operates in partnership with the larger LA school district…only to find out that he wasn’t allowed to set foot in the cafeteria or kitchen! The people running the school wanted him there, as they realize it’s significant that almost half of the students in the community they serve are overweight or obese. The school district, however, continued to be an obstacle. When Jamie looked in the cafeteria windows, the hovering school district representatives told him to stop!

Ultimately, he was limited to talking to students who were already taking culinary arts classes. (They were awfully cute and quite excited to do some yummy healthy cooking.) 17-year-old Sophia has two parents and a 13-year-old sister with type 2 diabetes, and feels like her own diagnosis is coming any time.

“These kids deserve to be taught about food and what it does to their bodies, and I just wish the [school district] could see,” Jamie said.

After much negotiation between lawyers for all parties, Jamie was told he could prepare food for a segment of  the student population, but if he talked to them at all about their lunch or asked them how they felt about the school lunches they were normally served, he would receive a police escort out of the school.

“This is dirty,” he said. “The whole thing feels filthy.”

Meanwhile, he continued arguing with Dino, the fast food restaurant owner he was working with. Jamie wanted to create a healthier fast food menu; Dino said he was open to ideas, but ultimately resisted changing anything on his menu.

“Gas stations and fast food, that’s what we have here.”

Back in his kitchen, Jamie experimented with cuts of beef that would make healthy, delicious burgers that don’t cost much more than the burger patties Dino used.  He created four signature burgers and set up a “pay what you will” booth to test the recipes. He was slammed with customers, and no wonder…I myself will be recreating his “Revolution Burger”: A layer of smashed, seasoned pinto beans on the bottom bun, then the patty, then the house sauce and a dollop of baked smashed sweet potato. Yum-O

Back at Dino’s, Jamie got half the menu board and priced his burgers (around 430 calories each) to be competitive with Dino’s mid-priced burgers (800-1500 calories each). Reaction from customers was great, but Dino remained unconvinced. Even after he said that his father, who started the business and ate burgers every day, died of a diet-related disease. Shocking!

“From the few items that Jamie has shown me, I see no chance that it’ll be successful,” Dino said. “Fast food has been around so long that people are accustomed to what we provide. It’s hard to break somebody’s habits.”

Is there any wonder why the rate of obesity and diabetes are climbing in this country? Good grief!