Jamie Oliver On The Best + Worst School Lunches, Parenting & More

English super-chef Jamie Oliver is on a mission to get kids to eat better, both at school and in the home. Through his change.org petition, Jamie is calling for all G20 nations to offer compulsory food education in schools, and asking for your help as well, urging:

"I urgently need your help to make a real difference. We’re currently facing a global obesity epidemic, with 42 million children under the age of five either overweight or obese across the world. The bottom line is the next generation will live shorter lives than their parents if nothing is done to rectify these alarming stats."

His hope is that through food education, we can arm our kids with the knowledge they need to lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.

We sat down with Jamie to find out more. Here's what he had to say:

MBG: What, in your opinion, is the major culprit of this global obesity epidemic, affecting 42 million children worldwide?

Jamie Oliver: A lack of food education. It's that simple. Over the years I've seen parents feeding their kids rubbish day after day. I've seen people feeding toddlers Coca-Cola from a baby bottle and it's all down to people not knowing the difference between nutritious food and food that should be enjoyed as an occasional treat. Too often, it's the treats that end up being eaten as everyday food, and that's what causes major problem, starting in childhood and usually affecting a person for their whole life.

You’ve been around the world and see what kids eat in schools. Which country or place, from what you’ve seen, has the best school lunch and what is it? Which had the worst in your opinion?

I remember going to South Africa a few years ago and visiting one of the poorest areas I'd ever been to. The mums from the local school would all gather together to contribute to their kids' school lunches. The kids would end up with cheap cuts of meat that has been deliciously slow-cooked and also loads of fresh veg straight out of the ground. It was inspirational.

As for the worst, it's hard to choose between the London school where I started my school lunches campaign 10 years ago or the schools in Los Angeles — they were both pretty shocking.

Any advice for parents and families trying to help their kids eat right at home?

Get kids in the kitchen, get them cooking and, if possible, get them growing food, too. If kids have ownership over what they're eating, they'll be happier to eat it. Most importantly, make food fun — help them to enjoy cooking and trying new ingredients. The worst thing you can do is to make food a battlefield.

On that same note, if there’s just one thing we can teach our kids about making better food choices, what would that be?

Eat the rainbow. Learn to love fresh fruit and veg of every color. Have fresh fruit around the house so it's readily available and let your kids see you enjoying it, too.

What was the last (and or favorite) lunch you packed for your kids?

I don't tend to make them a packed lunch because they eat a good meal at school, but the last meal I cooked them was breakfast — pancakes with fresh berries and yogurt.

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