Last night, ABC aired episode 2 of the second season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.
This episode continues Oliver’s bad luck, which began in the first episode, when the administration of the Los Angeles Unified School District decided it wanted no part of Oliver or his show.
This episode begins with Oliver embarking on all sorts of practical tactics geared to overcoming the opposition of the school board. He realizes that parents are the only force in this drama with the political power to fight back against the school district, so he begins building a “parent movement” to pressure the board to allow Oliver campus access.
He enlists parents to send emails to board members, and even does the practical and unglamorous work of using a database to track these emails. He does some guerilla advocacy tactics, like giving out T-shirts to students that read, “Feed Him Better.”
And then Oliver catches a break. His research reveals that West Adams Preparatory is a school funded by—but not run by—the school district. He gets invited onto campus, and it seems he’s got his ticket to working with the cafeteria staff just as he did in season 1 back in Huntington.
But those douchebags on the school board find out, and bar Oliver from the cafeteria by threatening the jobs of the school’s leadership. In one memorable scene, Oliver’s North Korean-style tour guides don’t even want him looking in the cafeteria window.
So Oliver is shunted to teaching a dozen students in a culinary arts class. Which sets the stage for the same sorts of interactions he had back in Huntington, when he supervised a crew of high school students. As with the Huntington students, the students Oliver meets with at West Adams Prep have family members impacted by diet-related disease. Oliver spends some time with 17-year-old Sophia, who tearfully expresses her fears as the only person in her family who hasn’t yet developed type 2 diabetes.
Oliver also makes a return visit to Dino at Patra’s Burgers to put in another effort to improve its 1950s-style burger menu. It’s a useful segment but one that won’t appeal much to vegans, as Oliver’s chief goal is to inspire Dino to switch from generic mega-burgers made with commodity beef, to hamburgers made from alternative beef and flavored with plant-based bean, avocado, or chipotle spreads.
Still, for anyone insisting on a burger, this is progress—since it means a more plant-based meal, and less likelihood of the over-the-top cruelty associated with factory farms. And Oliver does a nice job of field testing his burger offerings and showing that they appeal to local omnivores. There’s nothing about this segment that had me turning cartwheels but it did do a great job of demonstrating that even people at the extreme end of the meat spectrum have the potential to take positive steps.
Overall, through no fault of Oliver’s own, it’s been a disappointing start to the season. He’s just not getting the school access to make the kind of progress he needs. And it’s clear that the board of the Los Angeles Union School District has mechanisms to stifle dissent and shield itself from public opinion. It’s hard to imagine that Oliver can use a tiny culinary class as a steppingstone to gaining meaningful access to the district. And it seems like the school board is determined to frustrate him at every step.
So in short: Jamie, I don’t think we’re in Huntington anymore. But real activists work with what they’ve got and don’t stop seeking out ways to move the needle. And perhaps, in availing himself of existing opportunities, Oliver will catch the break he needs to gain meaningful access to Los Angeles schools. But last season had just six episodes, and if this season is the same length, it means that Oliver’s already running out of time.
Watch the full episode here.