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Oliver show spells out food problem

Mar. 22, 2010 @ 07:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The premiere of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" aired Sunday night on ABC, bringing Huntington back into the national spotlight. And it's definitely not the attention the city received when "We Are Marshall" hit movie theaters in 2006.

In the first episode, Oliver lays out the obesity problem and the amount of unhealthy, processed foods being consumed in schools and homes. But he makes it very clear in a number of scenes the problem isn't Huntington's alone.

Right off the bat, Oliver says he wants to start his food revolution here. But he is met with a wall of pessimism by Rod Willis, one of the morning show hosts on 93.7 The Dawg. Rod Willis gives Oliver a hard time and says he doubts he can succeed.

Then Oliver heads to Central City Elementary, where he walks in to find students eating breakfast pizza and cereal with strawberry milk. It's here the drama starts.

After meeting the cooks -- Polly Midkiff, Mildred "Milly" Bailey, Linda Ball, Lawona Ferris and Alice Gue -- Oliver tours the kitchen and says he is impressed with the space and equipment.

He also takes note that the cooks are making their own bread from scratch, calling it a "glimmer of hope." But his optimism is short-lived after he finds out that the mashed potatoes are not made from scratch and instead come from an instant mix.

"Southern Africa is getting better food than American kids," Oliver says.

In the fourth scene, Oliver checks out what's in the freezer. That's when the rivalry between he and Gue heats up. He describes her as a force to be reckoned but also someone who would be a great catalyst for change.

"I'm impressed with the cooks, the school, the kitchen. But the food is (expletive)," Oliver declares.

After watching the students eat lunch and throw away most of their fruits and vegetables, OIiver gets the cooks to agree to try his way.

In the next scene, Oliver attends a church service at the First Baptist Church of Kenova, where Pastor Steve Willis is preaching a sermon about honoring God with our bodies. Oliver and Steve Willis retreat to a church office, where the pastor flips through a membership directory and points out people who were in the hospital or had died because of heart disease, diabetes, stroke -- all things he said were related to obesity.

Once again, Oliver emphasizes that he wants to help America by helping Huntington first.

Then Oliver meets the Edwards family -- Stacie, her three sons and daughter. Her husband, she says, is a truck driver and can be gone two to three weeks at a time. The family admits to eating unhealthy and being overweight, but the first tears are shed when Oliver and Stacie Edwards cook a week's worth of the family's breakfast, lunch and dinners, then pile it up on the table.

He tells her that if it keeps up, they will lose 10 to 15 years off their life. And she states that she is killing her kids.

But Oliver says there is hope if they are willing to try. After the family buries the deep fryer in the back yard, Oliver and Justin Edwards, 15, connect. The teenager says he is overweight, gets made fun of at school and wants to be healthy. Oliver recruits him to help make the family a new type of dinner, with fresh ingredients. He describes it as "quick, cheap and nutritious."

Next, Oliver stops by 3rd Avenue to check the progress of Jamie's Kitchen. That's also where he meets Rhonda McCoy, the food service director for Cabell County Schools. This is where McCoy unveils the United States Department of Agriculture food regulations for schools. Oliver says he can't believe the red tape and restraints put on the school system. McCoy agrees to give him a week to train the cooks, come in under budget and get the kids to eat it.

The next day, he shows up before sunrise at Central City Elementary, with loads of fresh ingredients in tow. With the help of one of the cooks, he prepares a fresh lunch of chicken and salads. The rest of the cooks prepare the pizza. On this day, the students overwhelmingly choose the pizza. Those that chose chicken were seen throwing away their fresh vegetables, and one student spits out his salad.

Then, a story that Oliver has dissed Huntington during an international interview is published on the front page of The Herald-Dispatch.

Oliver goes to Central City to talk to the cooks, principal Patrick O'Neal and McCoy about the interview, swearing that comments were taken out of context.

Some question the intentions of the show, but Oliver says it is a "real thing you'll be proud of."

In the closing montage -- with children playing at recess behind him -- Oliver breaks down and says he wouldn't leave his family behind in England if he didn't want to help.

More about the show

"Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" premiered this weekend. Check out more coverage inside today's edition of The Herald-Dispatch and online:

WHEN TO WATCH: The first episode of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" will air again at 8 p.m. Friday, March 26, on ABC (locally, that is WCHS-TV or Channel 8). It will be followed by the second episode at 9 p.m. Fridays will be the regular time slot for the show, which is expected to be six episodes.

READ MORE SATURDAY: If you miss an episode, don't worry. The Herald-Dispatch will be offering weekly recaps. Read the recap of Friday's episode in Saturday's edition of The Herald-Dispatch.

KEEP UP WITH THE BLOG: The Herald-Dispatch has asked some local residents to watch the show each week and share their thoughts on the show. You can keep up with those comments on the "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" blog. To read the blog, go to www.herald-dispatch.com, click the Opinion tab, then click Blogs.

MULTIMEDIA: Browse through photos from Oliver's time in Huntington or watch a promo video for the show and video of Marshall students participating in the production of the show by going to www.herald-dispatch.com. Once you are there, click on the Multimedia section at the top of the page.

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