I spent the first two months of 2011 living in Los Angeles, filming the second season of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” for ABC. After last year’s experience of trying to change food culture in the beautiful town of Huntington, West Virginia, I expected the challenges in L.A. to be very different. Shockingly, they were all too familiar.
L.A. is home to the nation’s second biggest school district, which feeds 650,000 children every day. Half of these kids are eligible for free school meals. Within a few miles of the Hollywood sign there are entire communities with no access to fresh food. People travel for well over an hour to buy fruits and vegetables, and in one of the communities where I worked, children had an 80% obesity rate.
I had planned to work in the L.A. schools to try to figure out how school food could be better–and, ideally, cooked from scratch. Thousands of outraged parents, not to mention teachers and principals, wanted me in their schools. But I couldn’t even get in the door: the Los Angeles Unified School District banned me from filming any of their food service operations, claiming that they didn’t need me because they were already leading the charge. [You can read the LAUSD’s response here.]