Friday, September 30, 2011

RE: Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution School Lunch Photo Wall

In the spring of 2011 Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Team named me a school food revolution hero.

Today I received an email asking for me to submit photos of New Haven school lunch's to show off some of the best school meals in the country and to thank me for my support of this new campaign. BUT, they also want to post photos of the worst school lunch in the country. My response to the email I received is below for all to read:

Good Morning,

I do not like the idea of the “Worst School Lunch”. I think it is a bad idea to berate school nutrition professionals for following the rules. Just because we may not agree that the lunch is good, it most likely meets the USDA requirements for a reimbursesable meal.  That translates that the school nutrition professionals are following the rules set forth by the administrators of the program, the USDA. To point out that they are doing something wrong is not the right approach. I would rather see webinars set up as training exercises to educate school nutrition professionals on how to make better choices utilizing USDA Foods and staying within budget. That in my mind is what is most important.
Taking the route of stomping on the same very people who we want to educate is not going to help in the long run. But working together as a team will.
Typically the school itself does not operate its own school meals program but rather operated on a school district level. So not naming the school itself but naming the town will have the same negative effect on school meal programs nationwide. School staff directly may not be the intended target but I know that my workers take their jobs seriously and negative PR hurts us all.
There is no validity in the process either, there could be a picture uploaded to your site stating that a particular meal was served in a New Haven School that could be false. This will now have a negative impact on my program whether or not the picture is accurate.
The idea of a best school lunch vs a worst school lunch is the wrong way to make change and I am 100% against the idea.
You do not have my support with this campaign.

Their response to my email response was:
Hi Tim,
Thank you for your email, I completely understand your point.
However, through this campaign we do not want to criticize school nutrition staff – but rather start a real conversation about school food, get people to visit their schools, try the meals and connect with other parents, lunch staff and nutrition directors.
We completely understand that school lunch is served under constraints including budget, staff, ingredients, and food availability. Yet under the same regulations about school food and sometimes within the same community, some kids are getting amazing school food whilst others are really not.
We don’t just want to find the ‘Worst’ lunch but shine the spotlight on differences there are in school meals, showcase some great meals and also have some fun in comparing school meals from all the over the world – from different cultures, climates and growing seasons.
In no way do we want to be malicious towards schools, or school & nutrition staff nor do we want to suggest they are doing anything wrong. Rather we just to open up conversation on school food all over the world and how important it is to take a part & be involved in what students are eating at school.
I understand completely where you are coming from & I hope I have explained some of our thoughts behind the photo wall in this email.
Many thanks,

I do not agree with their response nor do I agree that this is just a campaign to shine the spotlight on "different" school meals. This is a feeble attempt to portray any school nutrition professional who serves a meal that is not up to the standards of Jamie Oliver in a negative light all to give him more fame and fortune.

Perhaps Jamie means well and truly wants to make a difference but he seems to be going about it in the wrong direction. Pitting school nutrition professionals against one another is not the way to see change happen.

Together Everybody Achieves More = TEAM. Jamie needs to step up to the plate and join the team, not alienate himself from it.

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