Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, long a proponent of healthier eating by children, has a new goal for his business empire following the collapse of his restaurant chain: cutting by half the number of obese children in the U.K.
Oliver hopes to achieve the goal by 2030, with the first step being increasing access to affordable and convenient healthy food. Oliver calls on government and private industry changes, including advertising, food label and food ingredient changes.
Oliver’s Jamie Oliver Group will become a “social impact business,” certified as a “B corp,” a status given to U.K. for-profit companies which meet certain standards of sustainability, accountability and transparency. The group released a social-impact report on childhood obesity last week in conjunction with SustainAbility as part of its effort to achieve the certification.
About one in five U.K. children leave primary school with obesity, according to the report. If left unchecked, that would result in 1.6 million obese children in 2030, the year by which Oliver hopes to achieve his goal.
- In May, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group declared bankruptcy, resulting in the closing of 25 restaurants and the loss of 1,000 jobs in the U.K. Oliver has blamed the fallout of the Brexit vote and the depreciation of the pound for the failure.
- In 2005, Oliver launched a campaign for healthier food in schools called “Feed Me Better.” While the effort gained government backing and helped improve test results, it failed to generate much popular support. Oliver has since blamed the campaign’s failure on a widespread belief that eating well is an indulgence of the well-to-do.
- In the U.S., Michelle Obama used the visibility of her role as first lady to highlight the importance of healthy school lunches. She championed the updating of school nutrition standards, helped develop programs to get children to be more active, and worked with the private sector to contribute to the effort. The Trump Administration has reduced some of her campaign’s achievements by relaxing nutritional standards, among other actions.
- Oliver’s restaurant empire still exists, with 65 sites in 25 countries. Oliver’s latest cookbook– Veg: Easy & Delicious Meals for Everyone — hit stores shelves last week.
- Eating healthy meals improves children’s academic performances, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students with higher grades tend to eat breakfast seven days a week, consume fruits and vegetables at least once a day, and avoid soda, the CDC said.
Karma Take: While Oliver’s new effort may be noble, the public hasn’t embraced past campaigns to improve children’s eating habits, despite evidence that they lead to improved academic performance. Oliver’s plan also makes no mention of helping kids transition to a more physically active lifestyle, a highlight of Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! plan.