Jamie Oliver serves a healthy dose of propaganda
The celebrity chef is on a mission to fight "massive ignorance" and junk food, bringing his Learn Your Fruit and Veg program to Australian schools.
Jamie Oliver is on a mission to spread propaganda through Australian schools.
The British celebrity chef says the fast food industry has "brainwashed" children into loving crispy chicken nuggets, fries and burgers.
Now he hopes to fight back by spruiking the humble tomato, banana and beetroot to Australian primary school students.
"It is our way of propaganda and trying to market fruit and vegies," he said. "It's ... editing out massive ignorance."
In a bid to beat rising obesity rates, the popular TV chef is trying to roll out a program that teaches primary school students how to identify and prepare fresh produce.
He says obesity and diet-related illness will cost the Australian healthcare system $6.5 billion this year.
When he was filming Jamie's Food Revolution in the US, he met students who stared blankly at tomatoes. They had never seen one before.
They also struggled to make the connection between a portion of chips and a potato.
These responses are also common in Australia. "It's unbelievable," he says.
"When you are in communities, and there is not much access to fresh fruit and veg, and mum and dad don't bring you up using that sort of stuff, of course they don't know."
The Learn your Fruit and Veg program has been running in the UK since 2012, and was recently piloted at Solway Primary School in the Melbourne suburb of Ashburton.
The not-for-profit Good Foundation, which delivers the program and Jamie's Ministry of Food, provided the school with training, recipes and lesson plans.
Students learnt about where fruit and vegetables came from, and then cooked tomato bruschetta, beetroot and feta salad and raw broccoli salad with a yoghurt dressing.
Oliver – who is visiting Australia to relaunch his Jamie's Italian restaurant chain – is now seeking funding to expand the program nationally and 170 schools have already expressed interest.
He is a big fan of Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden program, but says the benefit of his program is that it doesn't require a garden, nor a kitchen.
This means that it can take place in any school, regardless of its facilities.
"There is no better way to teach maths, history, geography and science than through growing or cooking," Oliver says.
The healthy eating advocate has campaigned tirelessly to improve the quality of school lunches, food education and for the introduction of sugar taxes, which will soon apply to the UK soft drink industry.
He said food education in Australia was a lot more robust than it is in Britain. But there is always room for improvement. The healthy food pyramid is "quite dull and boring", he says. "If you turn the pyramid on its head, that's pretty much what everyone is eating."
He wishes that he'd learnt about food when he was at school.
It might have made his experience more enjoyable.
"I literally had the worst experience at school," he says.
"I was dyslexic and the system wasn't noticing it. I was in special needs my whole school life which is not that nice, getting extracted from every bloody class. It was not a great time. I did pretty badly at school."
He believes children are the perfect group to target when it comes to healthy eating.
"The middle aged and the old are done, they are set and cast on a trajectory," he says.
"Primary school is the holy grail."