As you probably know by now, Jamie Oliver's Los Angeles Food Revolution is currently in its second week. Day 1, or the first day of shooting for Oliver's ABC reality show, was last Tuesday, which the British chef marked with the opening of his Westwood headquarters, Jamie's Kitchen. Since the beginning, Oliver has been frustrated by the continued refusal of the LAUSD to let him film in their cafeterias.
In another move to gain support for his cause, yesterday Oliver staged a stunt (his word) in the parking lot of the First Lutheran Church of Carson: he and his ABC crew poured 57 tons of white sand into an old school bus. Why? To demonstrate how much sugar LAUSD schoolchildren consume every week from the flavored milk they're given in their school lunches.
"Welcome to Hollywood," Oliver said, gesturing to the school bus, the dump truck, the hauling equipment, and the pyramids of sand like a small desert in a parking lot. "We're going to blow the tires."
In Los Angeles, Oliver said, 75-80% of the milk that goes out to kids in the LAUSD is flavored. Eight ounces of flavored milk contains, continued Oliver, a full 28 grams of sugar, which he compared to "one can of your favorite soda, I'm not even allowed to say the name [for legal reasons]," which contains 26 grams of sugar. Thus he'd gotten the idea to fill a bus with sand to represent the enormous quantities of sugar that kids are getting without, perhaps, realizing it.
"I've taken a broken-down bus; this represents a broken-down system. P. Diddy would love this," said Oliver of the bus behind him, "It's been pimped. It's got the roof off."
As Oliver stood by and talked to the crowd, the sand poured into the bus and the ABC cameras filmed the event. It was not, as Oliver noted, exactly what he had in mind. Why? Because instead of the crowds of frustrated and mobilized parents he had expected, Oliver's stunt drew, by his own assessment, "20 people and one journalist." As the sand continued to pour, into the bus and out of the windows and over the paper cut-outs of kids in the seats ("they're drowning in sugar right now") and under the front door, Oliver grew increasingly frustrated.
"I'm a regular guy. I'm not eating lentils and burning incense. If you look at what I've done for the last ten years, I'm no freak," said the chef, who also said he'd extended an invitation to LAUSD district 5 head Yolie Flores to attend the event. Oliver paced in front of the filling bus, gesturing at the sand and to the people, who were occasionally pushed back from the bus -- as was Oliver -- by the ABC crew just in case the tires did blow (they did not).
"L.A. is not on my side. They've got their fingers in their ears -- la, la, la -- they're not having it. This city doesn't care. I don't want to winge about turnout... but maybe L.A. was a big mistake."
Oliver, whose first American Food Revolution show, last year's season one, was filmed in Huntington, West Virginia, said that he's growing increasingly frustrated with how this incarnation of the project has been going. "The Food Revolution has been incredibly hard. To make it. To get access. I'm finding it really hard to tell the truth in this country."
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Yesterday's bus-and-sand stunt was only the latest in what Oliver says will be a series of events organized to draw attention to his efforts. Oliver also said that in addition to Jamie's Kitchen and a mobile kitchen, he's also going to open a drive-thru. (More later on this.)
"I've never been so deflated in my whole career," Oliver said as the sand finally stopped pouring into the bus and started to blow across the concrete parking lot, making the chef look not a little like a character misplaced from a Bertolucci film.