"Properly, with love, from scratch": Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Radical History Review 06/2011; 2011(110):178-191. DOI: 10.1215/01636545-2010-033


What to eat is of great concern to the U.S. public; it is the subject of social organizing at many scales and the focus of significant academic discussion. This article analyzes Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (JOFR), a much-discussed reality show that aired in 2010 in the United States, in which English celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, well known in the United Kingdom for directing government and public attention to school lunch, brought his campaign to promote fresh-cooked food to Huntington, West Virginia. We recognize the capacity of JOFR to encourage people to act on behalf of their and their loved ones' health, as well as to become engaged politically to change the food system, and in this article, we provide a sympathetic critique of themes and methods emphasized by Oliver in his efforts to spark a food revolution. Specifically, our critique points to JOFR's similarity to past food reform efforts; the shaming of the overweight; the focus on a particular form of whiteness that masks the work of race, food, and health; the show's arbitrary designation of authentic food; and JOFR's promotion of heroic, antagonistic change. A food revolution, we argue, needs to engage with structural aspects of the food system through collective action.

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