JAMIE OLIVER BRINGS A REVOLUTION TO HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA
-- AND ALL OF AMERICA, HE HOPES -- IN THE DEBUT EPISODE OF
"JAMIE OLIVER'S FOOD REVOLUTION" FRIDAY, MARCH 26 ON ABC
"Episode 101" � Jamie Oliver, the impassioned chef, TV personality and best-selling author, is starting a revolution in America, taking on the high statistics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in this country, where our nation's children are the first generation not expected to live as long as their parents. Oliver invites viewers to take a stand and change the way America eats, in our homes and schools, with the thought-provoking new series, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," debuting FRIDAY, MARCH 26 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. The series will run for six episodes.
In the series premiere, Oliver heads to Huntington, West Virginia � which has been called the unhealthiest city in America -- to start his new cooking initiative. He hopes to start a chain reaction of positive change across the country. Jamie says that nearly half of the adults in Huntington are considered obese, and incidents of heart disease and diabetes lead the nation. This nation's children are the first generation expected to live a shorter life than their parents.
Jamie initially meets naysayers and resistance. Battling ingrained unhealthy habits, bureaucracy, limited financial resources and apathy, his early efforts are threatened when a news article overseas misquotes him badmouthing the local populace and their diet. Bloodied but unbowed, Jamie is more determined than ever to transform one community as a template for the entire country. The stakes? Simply the health of our country's citizens and the legacy for its children.
Jamie immediately gravitates to the city's schools and gets the local school system to let him work at the cafeteria at Central City Elementary School to try to make the children's lunches healthier, within the existing school budget. However he is immediately met with resistance by Alice Gue, a longtime staffer whom he unwittingly insults by calling her a "lunch lady." Jamie openly criticizes the nutritional value for the frozen processed food and instant "potato pearls" on the daily menu. He is aghast when one youngster cannot identify a fresh tomato and cringes to see the children drinking sugared milk drinks, chicken nuggets, pizza and fries to the exclusion of other, more nutritious, freshly prepared options. Clearly, he has his work cut out for him.
Jamie goes to the local radio station, 93.7 "The Dawg," to spread the word through deejay Rod Willis from "The Radio Ranch." Bristling at the charismatic outsider trying to tell the people of Huntington how to eat, Rod predicts failure and dryly says to Jamie, "Well, we'll see." Undaunted, Jamie also finds himself with a dynamic young church leader, Pastor Steve Willis (no relation) of the First Baptist Church, who is zealous about helping his community battle obesity and related illnesses. Flipping through his church directory, Pastor Steve shows Jamie his parishioners who have died from these health conditions and frets for the future of his people. He is determined to support Jamie's revolution and introduces Jamie to Stacie Edwards, a mother of four. Her teenage son Justin has been bullied over his weight. Jamie finds a dramatic way to educate Stacie and the kids about the kinds of food they eat � he puts a week's worth of their fat-laden meals � deep fried donuts, corn dogs, sausage, biscuits, nuggets, hamburgers, frozen pizza and more, piled up on the kitchen counters and table. Stunned and tearful, she resolves to follow Jamie's customized meal plans for a week, changing her shopping, cooking and eating habits.
Jamie establishes a storefront in the center of town, "Jamie's Kitchen," where he will offer free cooking classes to help recruit people to his cause. He meets Rhonda McCoy, who is in charge of the Cabell County School system's food, which serves over 12,600 students daily. She advises him on the complexities of fulfilling U.S.D.A. guidelines and will supervise his efforts, determining whether or not he can continue his involvement in the local schools. But as Alice keenly observes, if the kids don't like the food, they won't eat it. It's a smackdown between Jamie's chicken and the usual pizza -- which will win?
Oliver says, "The time is right for people to rediscover the sense of pride, satisfaction and fun you can get from cooking for the people you love. There's an incredible community in Huntington, and I want this experience to be a celebration of what we can achieve when people come together. I want to prove that turning around the epidemic of obesity and bad health doesn't have to be boring or dull in the slightest. Wonderful stories will unfold in Huntington, and hopefully this will inspire the rest of the States."
The series is loosely based on Jamie Oliver's U.K. series, "Jamie's Ministry of Food" and "Jamie's School Dinners," which saw his successful grass-roots efforts improve the school lunches in communities there. For the latter show, it resulted in a total overhaul of the school dinner program in the U.K. In America, he's turning his attention to helping people of all ages eat more balanced meals and cook with fresh ingredients, not only at schools, but also homes, workplaces and even restaurants.
Oliver's recent television credits include "Oprah's Big Give" for ABC. He is the author of nine popular cookbooks, including The Naked Chef, Cook with Jamie and Jamie at Home. Hyperion published his latest cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals, in October 2009.
The series is produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions and Fresh One Productions. Executive producers of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" are Jamie Oliver, Ryan Seacrest and Craig Armstrong ("Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"). This program carries a TV-PG,L parental guideline.