Mr. T in DC/flickr
Well, the early results of Jamie Oliver's experiment at reforming school lunch are getting some attention—because they have been so dismal. When given a choice, the kids in Huntington, West Virginia, prefer chicken nuggets, breakfast pizza, and fries to his Food Revolution, by a wide margin, according to a West Virginia University study (click here for a PDF).
As a result, school meal purchases declined, as did milk, which Oliver had switched to plain skim from chocolate and strawberry.
Having a six-year-old daughter, I have some thoughts about these results. I pity the star chef, because in a culture of snacks and fried foods, it's hard to introduce anything that is remotely healthy—and then get kids to choose it—in a few weeks.
We have veggies and/or fruit at every meal and eat a wide range of foods, such as legumes, pasta, and whole grains, along with fish and meat. But if my daughter is given a choice, salty crackers, cured meats, olives, and pickles always win the day. None of those are objectionable in moderation, but that can be a difficult concept for a six-year-old. And given a choice, my daughter will always pick my homemade baguette over a whole-grain loaf, which is why I don't make baguettes so often. Sugary flavored milk is not an issue, because it's not a choice. Never has been.
West Virginia University
And that's the key. Like Michelle Obama, who declared French fries her favorite food, nearly anyone will make the choice of fried, salty, fatty if he or she doesn't think about it. Kids in particular tend to choose what is familiar. It's not easy to get them to try new things, especially if they are brown or green.