Though his childhood dreams may have been more in line with winning a football, or as you Americans say, “soccer,” cup, Jamie Oliver was thrilled to receive the Healthy Cup Award yesterday at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The cup is awarded by the HSPH Nutrition Round Table every two years to an individual or group “that has made a significant contribution to public health and nutrition through acts of good will, charity, leadership, innovation, policy change, or vigorous promotion of a healthy lifestyle.” Leave it to Harvard to create such an ambitious list of criteria.
But Oliver certainly fits the bill. While he appeared humbled by the award, and several times stated how shocked he was to find himself in a room surrounded by “so many clever people,” he was clearly in his element delivering his speech. Or was it a statement of sad truths? Or a call to arms maybe? I can’t be sure. Oliver used his time to share his ideals by imagining his perfect world:
IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE:
- The FDA and USDA look after only children’s interests and not special interest money
- Milk is just milk – not a delivery mechanism for added sugar
- Hunger and obesity do not exist 2 miles apart
- Kids have more than 23 minutes for lunch
- The ingredients list on chicken contains chicken, not a complex scientific equation
- The biggest cause of death is not self-inflicted through food
These were just a few of the ideals that Oliver shared, and he generated hundreds more from his followers in Instagram.
I was surprised at how well Oliver understood the challenges we face in addressing issues of obesity and hunger in our country. Oliver very astutely stated that we really haven’t figured it out yet; the progress we’ve made so far has been just that, progress, but we don’t have a solution. What we can do, however, is continue to encourage people to want one. We can encourage them to care about what is happening in their communities and food systems at large. “Imagine a world where” is a way to ask people, “is your community giving you everything you want and need? What’s missing?”
Oliver ended his speech by stating two sad truths:
- We are a country obsessed with sustainability but we are not ourselves sustainable
- He feels passionate…and depressed
I understand his sentiment. However, by using the example of pink slime, Oliver explained how quickly Americans act when provided with information they can use. Schools will now be allowed the option of whether or not to use pink slime in school lunch (because here in America, that is defined as progress) rather than the byproduct being the default.
Jamie Oliver’s “Imagine a world” exercise can be seen as a depressing list of everything we aren’t doing right. But instead, I see it as a to-do list for the nutrition and health professionals of this generation. Enough with writing law to service big business, awarding food companies for reactionary behavior, and defining transparency as progress. There is a new sheriff in town, and the gloves are coming off.
Who, you might ask? Oh yes, that would be me. While you may not have thought I “held back” in the past, my new Masters in Nutrition Communication (awarded this past Sunday) officially credentials me to start getting real about nutrition. And thanks to Jamie, I have a long list to get started on.
Please take the time and tell me, how would you finish the sentence “Imagine a world where…”?
- The Aspiring RD, MS
My sister Olivia and I on graduation day!