Well here we are, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" is over. Perhaps just for now, perhaps for good.
Surprisingly, the season (/possible series) finale presented us with semi-answers to a number of the questions I would have raised in this post had the episode just focused on the original timeline of events.
After hitting us with only 10-15 minutes of scenes at the end of Jamie's original Huntington excursion, the finale jumped forward in time to earlier this month, to show us what happens when the TV cameras leave and things get a lot more complicated.
But First, Celebration!
Just as he said in response to my post last week and in his interview with Earth Eats' Jessica Gall, Doug Sheils hooked Jamie up with some funding, and even though it ended being $20,000 short of the number Jamie seemingly picked out of thin air in last week's episode, it will surely go a long way into helping the Huntington community.
It's also important to note, as Sheils told Jessica, there were efforts to fight the problem of obesity in Huntington before Jamie came to town. Those efforts may have been on a smaller scale and less visible than rolling into town with a camera crew and declaring "REVOLUTION."
Perhaps they weren't doing enough, but I'm man enough to admit the editing of the previous episode got to me and it was unfair to assume that no one was doing anything in this community before "Food Revolution". I still think there were some clueless and maybe even unwilling people, especially in the schools, but in the end, Doug Shiels and his hospital turned out to not be among those people.
Apart from that, the first half of the episode was mostly filler celebrating all of Jamie's achievements in the city, including a random appearance by country recording artists Rascal Flatts. Cue the cheering, smiling, crying and general optimism for the future thanks to the newly secured funding and Jamie's "changes."
…then cut to earlier this month when things are starting to go wrong.
Return To Huntington
In the episode's second half, Jamie returns to Huntington, fresh off his whirlwind media tour, to save them from themselves. Or at least that's the way he makes it sound.
The food service director for Huntington schools, Rhonda, has found herself overwhelmed with backed up processed food and has had to implemented "Processed Food Fridays" to get rid of it all. Hey, that's catchy!
Seriously though, it seemed as though Rhonda was totally at a loss for what to do with the processed food. Jamie explained that the USDA wouldn't allow the schools to re-sell it and trashing it would just be sunk cost and a waste of food, but if you're Rhonda and you really want the schools to change for good, wouldn't you try to find a way to eat that cost? Why not donate it to the homeless as one angry parent suggests?
Jamie looked angry, Rhonda looked confused and I was a little bit of both. It comes down to money. The USDA subsidizes the processed food and buying fresh is still too expensive for the schools to sustain, even with all the goodwill and contributions from the community. And then Jamie's biggest enemy of the series made its gut-busting return: chocolate milk! Rage!
Brown Bagging It
As time had passed, many parents had also decided to start letting their kids brown bag it for lunch, perhaps as a way to avoid the old fattening, awful school food, or maybe because the kids didn't like Jamie's healthier options.
Unsurprisingly, the brown bag lunches were just as bad as or even worse than the original processed junk. As Jamie said, it was full of "chips, chips and candy." Healthy stuff. My guess is that many of the parents were trying to do it right but after a month or two, many just gave a hackneyed effort to making their children's lunch and let them return to the junk.
So to restart his crusade, Jamie enlisted the help of those once-beleaguered lunch ladies, including the tough-as-nails Alice, who it turns out has been receiving hate mail since the series started airing on ABC.
Jamie, Alice and the rest of the crew go on the radio and to the schools in hopes of correcting some of the issues that have popped up since the series ended, but they find that it's difficult to get concrete answers.
And perhaps, above all, the main thing we can take away from "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" is that it's easy to get angry and want everything to change as soon as possible, but as the series accurately depicted, it just can't happen overnight.
The Revolution Ticks On
Everyone seems to have someone to answer to and everyone is looking to cover their own tails – especially when dealing with the highly politicized environments that make up the public school system.
So the revolution ticks on, without the television cameras. We briefly saw what happened in Huntington without that pressure, and one can only wonder what will happen in the future.
I'll probably write a more reflective post in the next few days, but in spite of all its manipulations and reality series tropes, I'm left thinking that "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" will have more of a positive impact than a negative one.
How about you?