Story by peter berry

British chef will tackle America’s obesity crisis in new prime-time ABC series

Jamie Oliver is set to work with leading US TV network ABC to film an American production combining his two hit British series, “Jamie’s School Dinners” and “Jamie’s Ministry of Food”. In the original Ministry series, broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK, Oliver filmed for over two years in the London borough of Greenwich (for School Dinners) and the Yorkshire town of Rotherham (for Ministry) and inspired people there to change their unhealthy diets of takeaways and ready meals in favour of cooking fresh, nutritious food whilst saving money. Jamie is currently looking for an appropriate American town in which to start a food revolution.

The new series will be a co-production between Oliver’s TV company, Fresh One and Ryan Seacrest Productions. Filming begins later in 2009 for a prime-time slot on ABC early in 2010.

The Ministry of Food centre in Rotherham, which provides cooking lessons and advice for everyone in the town, is about to celebrate its one year anniversary and is booked up until July with local people wanting to feed themselves and their families ‘proper’ food. The centre has been so successful that many other British councils are looking to copy the Rotherham model.

Oliver says: “I believe that now is the time when America is ready for big change and I’ve been working on ideas for the American series for five years now, inspired by what has been achieved by the wonderful people in Greenwich and Rotherham. This is without question the most important and challenging thing I’ll ever do in my life but I truly believe that I can at least plant the seeds of change in America in terms of helping a community to cook better, feed their kids better and save money. I’ll be using everything I’ve learned over the last 10 years to try to get meaningful, sustainable change.”

Oliver’s plan for the series is to not only change the way that the people in the chosen town think about food and cooking but also to inspire a massive change in US schools, as he has done in the UK. In 2005, Oliver’s series “Jamie’s School Dinners” led to a public outcry about the state of school food in Britain and resulted in over £500m of British government investment in new, nutritious school meals. Recent research suggested that the new meals had been instrumental in improving both attendance and exam results.

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