Friday April 16, 2010
From NY Times' Diner's Journal Blog: Jamie Oliver, the chef who prodded the British government to overhaul the nation’s school lunch program, was awarded the $100,000 TED Prize on Wednesday at the annual TED conference, a series of lectures by experts from a wide range of fields including science, religion, and economics.
The award is intended to allow prominent people to articulate “one wish to change the world.”
“My wish is for everyone to help create a strong sustainable movement to educate every child about food,” he said, “to inspire families to cook again and to empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”
In front of more than 1,500 people in Long Beach, Calif.. and millions more who watched live over CNN.com, Mr. Oliver challenged his listeners to work with him.
The prize comes with organizational support, largely drawn from the resources of people who attend this week’s conference.
Among the things that Mr. Oliver’s campaign would need: office space, equipment to run community kitchens, media support, a Web site, and corporate partners who would help champion healthier food label. Following TED tradition, audience members stood up and offered their help and suggestions: headhunting for staff members, access to lawmakers in Washington, Web site design and marketing testing.
His mission dovetails with Michelle Obama’s new initiative to combat childhood obesity, a problem that now affects nearly one in three children in the country.
Pacing on the stage in a plaid shirt and his trademark spiky haircut, Mr. Oliver became emotional in explaining that this generation of children is projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, by as much as full decade — which he argued is almost all entirely diet-related.
Mr. Oliver had already established a beach head in the United States in Huntington, W. Va., statistically one of the most unhealthy communities in the country. His alternatingly humorous and emotional efforts to convert the community into eating better are documented in a series, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” which will be shown by ABC starting on March 26.
In one clip from the program, schoolchildren misidentified tomatoes for potatoes, an eggplant for a pear and a beet for an onion. Mr. Oliver said that they did not know the vegetables because they do not cook with them.
At the darkest moments during the campaign, Mr. Oliver said he thought to himself, “If I had a magic wand, What would I do? I’d just love to be put in front of the movers and shakers in America.”
A month later, TED, whose large annual conference in Long Beach attracts influential people across a range of industries, called and offered him the prize.
Winners of the four previous TED Prizes, which were introduced in 2005, have included Bill Clinton, Dave Eggers and Bono. In past years, there were three winners announced at each conference. But this year the organization decided to scale down to just one, as the number of wish campaigns was becoming unwieldy.