Everyone’s a Nutritionist

Published on: 13:36PM Apr 12, 2011

A few interesting developments on this April 12, all related to a similar trend….

First, there was this front page story in the Washington Post, about how Fairfax County’s school system is reinstating chocolate milk in the lunch line, after having banished it at the start of the school year.  Fairfax is the largest county in Virginia, and has one of country’s largest school populations (it’s also where my two kids attend), so the decisions it makes have national repercussions.

I loved the quote at the end of the article, from the director of food and nutrition services for Fairfax, Penny McConnell: “All of a sudden, everyone who eats is a nutritionist. It makes our job a lot more difficult.” 

This, in my mind, is one of the core factors in the whole ongoing national discussion about good foods versus bad foods…the whole locally-grown, organically-certified, community-supported, sustainably-harvested, grass-fed enchilada.  Everyone who eats and prepares food now seems to have a strident opinion, and will exert pressure on institutions like public school systems to effectuate the changes they seek.  This dynamic parallels the rise in social media’s penetration, and it certainly makes it hard to hear over the voice who shed more heat than light on the discussion.

Here’s one example of that:  Ann Cooper, the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” who has worked to ban chocolate milk from the schools in Boulder, CO.  Granted, you might expect her to get more traction in Boulder than in Fairfax or other more heterogeneous areas, but she’s got her acolytes, as most chefs do, and not just in the Rockies.  She was the chief chocolate milk critic that the Post invited to chat publicly today about the aforementioned article

Here’s an even better example:  British celeb chef Jamie Oliver, whose “food revolution” program has its seasonal début Tuesday night on ABC.  (And a tangential rant:  why does food have to be served in season, but network TV shows follow no season at all anymore?  Whatever happened to September actually meaning the start of a new TV season?).

So Jamie is back in the states to set us straight about our slothful ways of living.  Yes, America is a target-rich environment in that regard…but the United Kingdom is hardly any better (this chart is not exactly ample evidence of under abundant food consumption in England).

 c 1 6 5 1 eng



But what’s really curious is why some people – maybe it’s just the network suits who design ABC’s prime time schedule – will listen to the guy. He’s an entertainer first, then a chef, and a food policy/dietician/medical expert…in what universe? Well, the answer is that he has a website, a reality show, and thus a bully pulpit. I pity the poor school dietician, ears shoved next to that kind of megaphone, just trying to serve balanced meals that kids will eat.