Ideas worth spreading: TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver

If you’ve read my previous post on feeding the next generation right, you’ll know that I’ve got great respect for the work that TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver is doing. With TED bringing together the biggest movers and shakers of the country last week, Jamie was there to speak to them with the heart and conviction to educate us all about the very things we put in our mouths.

Learn in 20 minutes what could potentially save thousands of lives. These ideas are truly worth spreading:

It’s really not difficult to stay away from greasy, fatty fast food and sugar-laden soda. For most of us, at least. But for those who live in areas like Chicago’s 3 food deserts, access to fresh produce is very limited. I can see why, with dollar-burgers and dollar-tacos just around the corner, it’s tempting to opt for the faster and cheaper alternative. But when you think about the long-term health implications, these cheap alternatives could cost you so much more in medical bills. However, when you live in a food desert and don’t have a car, taking that one bus that runs through the entire neighborhood 2 hours to a grocery store just isn’t feasible. The only options nearby? Fast food joints and corner drug stores with shelves filled with soda and candy, and where your protein comes in the form of a can of spam. It’s hard to believe that this situation exists in a city like Chicago. What the City officials need to do is work on getting more stores selling fresh produce in these areas.

Add organic food and responsibly-produced food to the mix, and you’ll realize that the benefits reaped – both for yourself and for the environment – are well worth the few extra cents you pay.

Feeding the next generation right.

So the big news is out. Jamie Oliver wins the 2010 TED Prize. Each winner receives $100,000 and, more importantly, the granting of “One Wish to Change the World”. Through TED’s extensive network of sponsors, conference attendees and online community, the prize winners have doors to powerful collaborative opportunities swing wide open. (Read more about Jamie’s win here)

Jamie has spent years trying to revolutionize the way we eat and live by getting us off unhealthy eating habits and getting us to cook again. Even with 12 tv series that’s been aired in 130 countries and 10 cookbooks in 29 languages, Jamie is set to create even bigger change. As far as I can remember, I was a big fan of his campaign School Dinners. His mission was to ban junk food in schools and get kids eating fresh, tasty and nutritious food.

“What we eat affects everything: our mood, behaviour, health, growth, even our ability to concentrate. A lunchtime school meal should provide a growing child with one third of their daily nutritional intake.”

I remember watching an episode where he cooked a tray of food and placed it next to a tray of deep fried chicken nuggets and fries in the dining hall. The kids, who came through the buffet line were so unused to seeing fresh, healthy options, mainly chose to go with the unhealthy stuff they’d been so used to putting in their mouths. They just didn’t know any better. It was a sad realization of how we’ve been conditioned, and why the level of obesity in children has doubled over the last decade. In fact, it’s estimated that the number of obese people in the world will rise to 2.3 billion within the next 5 years!

What’s the situation with schools in Singapore? Looking back, I remember that deep fried chicken nuggets and hot dogs formed a big part of my diet in primary school. Ice cream and fizzy, sugar-laden drinks were easily available too. Things were a little different in Secondary school. There was no ice cream in my first two years there. Frozen yogurt made its way in later on though. I also believe we didn’t have any options to buy coke or any other carbonated drinks. Although I’m not so sure my daily dose of Pokka green tea was a much better choice.

Photo by Kevin Krejci

All this leads me to wonder… what are they feeding students now? Think about it. If they typically have two meals a day, five days a week in that dining hall, that’s a big part of their diets. The system works a little differently back home, where instead of paying for a fixed meal plan for the semester and then getting food from a buffet line, students still have the power in their hands to choose what food to buy from a variety of 8 – 10 different stalls. This means that stall holders are motivated to sell the products that have the highest demand. So apart from getting the authorities to crack down on what can be sold, an alternative way to get healthier choices on the menus is to educate the kids so they start to demand better food.

Health education from books isn’t cutting it anymore. Take them out to visit farms and gardens. Teach them through hands-on practice ways to do urban farming. Get experts to come into class to give real life examples of what they can do. So much can be done!

What was your experience with food in school like?

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