Bad diet shortens life spans, raises health costs, says Jamie Oliver
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on Wednesday called for an overhaul of America’s food system, saying the country’s poor decisions about what to eat are shortening life spans and increasing health care costs.
“My wish is for you to have a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, to inspire families to cook again and to empower people everywhere to fight obesity,” he said in a speech at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California.
Oliver, who is best known for the TV series, “The Naked Chef,” will star in an upcoming ABC series where he promotes local, healthy food as a way to fight obesity in Huntington, West Virginia, which he called the most unhealthy community in the United States.
“This is a global problem. It is a catastrophe. It is sweeping the world. England is right behind you [America], as usual,” he said. “We need a revolution.”
Oliver was awarded the TED Prize, which is given to speakers each year at the nonprofit group’s conference. Prize winners are invited to make one “wish” that will change the world. The organization gives the winner $100,000 and helps honorees raise money to make their wishes come true.
Members of the audience stood up to pledge Oliver their support after his short talk.
Oliver, who grew up working in his father’s pub and restaurant in Essex, England, outlined a number of specific steps to help America get back to local and fresh foods and to combat obesity. Among them, he said:
• Every child in the U.S. should learn to cook 10 meals before leaving high school.
• Supermarkets should appoint “food ambassadors” to explain to customers how they can prepare local, fresh and seasonal foods.
• Food companies should make education a central part of their business.
• Food labeling should be improved to accurately warn people about unhealthy food. He called America’s current food-labeling system a “farce.”
Oliver’s new reality show is called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” He is the author of a number of cookbooks.
The chef branched out into advocacy with a “Feed Me Better” campaign for improved school lunches in the United Kingdom. He presented a petition with more than 270,000 signatures to the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street in 2005, and officials promised to spend an added 280 million pounds ($437 million) to improve school food quality.
TED, a nonprofit organization, offers video lectures on its Web site for free — the idea being to disseminate “ideas worth spreading,” as its slogan says.
The group’s conference continues through Saturday and includes talks from celebrities like Bill Gates, Sheryl Crow, Sarah Silverman, James Cameron, David Byrne and Eve Ensler, as well as less-known thinkers, biologists, technologists, artists and musicians.
Oliver’s speech on Wednesday night was followed by a performance from Sheryl Crow.
He said the global food system can be revolutionized through the simple steps of individuals. He called on America to be a leader in these efforts.
“If America does it I believe other people will follow,” he said. “It’s incredibly important.”