Jamie Oliver: Tackle child obesity with compulsory food education

Jamie Oliver with school children

Jamie OliverJamie Oliver is a phenomenon in the world of food. He is well-known as one of the world’s best-loved television chefs and restaurateurs. Jamie’s passion for healthy food has led him to launch a global campaign to tackle the child obesity epidemic through better food education in schools.

According to the World Health Organization, 42 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese around the world in 2013.  I repeat, under the age of five…

Something is seriously wrong with our relationship with food and we need to act now before health services around the world become overwhelmed by the effects of preventable diet-related disease. It’s not just diseases like heart disease and stroke that are the issue. World Cancer Research Fund International’s analysis of worldwide research shows that there are now 10 cancers linked to being overweight or obese.

Food Revolution DayDespite the scale of the problem, however, there’s been a failure to tackle the global obesity epidemic. This is why I recently launched a global petition for Food Revolution Day this year to fight for compulsory, practical food education for all children in schools across the world.  Within a month we had well over 700,000 signatures, but now I really need your help to get more.

I profoundly believe that it is every child’s human right to have access to food education from a young age. Research suggests that developing healthy food preferences in childhood is more likely to result in healthy eating in adulthood. So it’s only when children have a knowledge and understanding of food, where it comes from, how it affects their bodies, and how to grow, cook and enjoy it, that we will be able to fix the terrible state of global health as it stands today.

I really need as many people as possible in every country to sign this petition and share it with their friends all over the world. With enough support, we can create a movement that’s powerful enough to make governments everywhere – including yours – to take action in the fight against diet-related diseases, and I really believe this is possible.

We’re lucky today that we can harness the power of technology to make our voices heard easily, instantly and ultimately, with impact. In 2014, my annual day of action, Food Revolution Day, created more than 1.4 billion impressions on Twitter in under 24 hours, all centred around the importance of food education, so I know people care.

Quite simply, I believe that signing this petition is the first step in changing the world. That’s a bold statement I know, but I’m confident that by harnessing our unified, global voice, we have the power to shape the future.

Let’s look at what I’m dreaming of here – it’s really not rocket science. I simply want every child to plant seeds, to witness food growing, to tend to it, nurture it, harvest it, have fun cooking it, and most importantly, to enjoy eating it and sharing it with the people they love. This is absolutely the heart of the solution – food education is an absolute necessity in reversing the poor health of future generations.

Think about it, any school subject can be taught through food – weighing ingredients in maths, planting and growing in biology, provenance in geography. I’m talking about an understanding of food that should instinctively and naturally be part of every day life, so it carries across the core subjects and can be easily embraced to widen that level of knowledge.

Already, there have been hugely positive steps in the right direction – last September, the government in the UK implemented the School Food Plan making food education compulsory in schools across England. And we’re not alone – Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden are all applying similar strategies. But there are so many more countries where we must drive change.

Here’s why this petition will work – people power. You really can’t underestimate it. Over the years, I’ve worked with many leaders and politicians, and the one thing they’ve all consistently voiced is that if we demand change, they’ll action it, and that’s exactly what we did 10 years ago in the UK for my School Dinners petition. The campaign felt fruitless at the start but we put school food firmly under the spotlight, we were successful in getting new money put into schools and there’s been radical transformation across the whole system, with many schools going above and beyond what I ever thought possible. That’s people power for you, pure and simple.

Why I’m targeting G20 countries

I’m privileged in my position that I can reach a wide audience easily, and that’s why 30 seconds of your time to sign this petition will allow me to spread this fight even further. Good health, happiness and well-being should be our priority as individuals, no matter where you live and what stage of life you’re at but I also want to get food education onto the upcoming G20 agenda and, from there, to all corners of the world. The G20 is an international forum for global cooperation in today’s world. Its response to the global financial crisis is a testament to the impact G20 members can make when working together. Obesity costs roughly $2trillion dollars globally each year. So the G20 has a vested interest in addressing this burden and the tools to realise the solutions, making it the ideal target for this petition.

Over the past 15 years I’ve consistently, and often successfully, campaigned for better public health, so please trust me when I say that with your help, we can make a profound difference. Please sign and share the petition with everyone you know today, and together let’s change the world. We need to arm our children with the life skills they so urgently need to lead healthier, happier, more productive lives.  I’m optimistic for our children’s future.

Jamie’s Food Revolution Day this year is on 15 May. His petition to G20 countries can be signed here. For the latest news from World Cancer Research Fund International, please follow us at twitter.com/wcrfint or view our one minute video outlining our 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations.