British chef Jamie Oliver — who has appeared on TV series “The Naked Chef” and “Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals” — started the Food Revolution campaign last year with the goal of bringing communities together to cook and eat local produce to benefit their health.
Although Alabama has moved from No. 2 to No. 4 on the list of U.S. states with the most obese adults, State Obesity Task Force Executive Director Mim Gaines said the state’s obesity rate could still be lowered, but there is a lack of funding for programs.
“We will get a small stipend from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July,” Gaines said. “It’s not the kind of money to fund programs and statewide initiatives.”
According to Gaines, the grant involved several different programs, so the State Obesity Task Force will only receive enough to fund one salary. Gaines said more funding would allow the state to provide more educational opportunities like Food Revolution Day.
Marchale Burton, extension office urban regional agent for Calhoun and Etowah counties, has been educating the community about nutrition for 13 years. Burton said Alabama’s lack of participation in Food Revolution Day is a matter of awareness, rather than funding.
“I think people are just unaware of this day,” Burton said. “I don’t really know that much about it. What is the difference with Food Revolution Day and National Nutrition Month?”
Burton suggested asking school superintendents and local leaders to set aside a day to raise awareness for the Food Revolution in cafeterias and classrooms.
“It might be a matter of the State Obesity Task Force to partner and network together to do this,” Burton said.
Michelle Elston, an agent with the Urban Nutrition Education Program, said the Food Revolution shares the mission of her organization: education.
UNEP, sponsored by Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, offers tips and demonstrations on healthy eating, health wellness and healthy food preparation similar to those seen on Food Revolution Day. However, the goal cannot be achieved in one day because it is a lifestyle, not a diet, she said.
“We have to look at the impact,” Elston said. “It’s not one day. It’s a series of classes. The person has to be in compliance with the class. They have to want to be there.”
Elston added that the impact of Food Revolution Day lasts more than a day in that it raises awareness of the problem.
Aliza Yarden-Cummings, manager of the Jacksonville Farmers Market and owner of Gathering Herbs, started farming 12 years ago when she was a caregiver for an elderly man who was not able to plant his garden.
“I’m teaching my grandchildren about farming, but my children don’t have a clue,” Cummings said with a chuckle. “I taught them how to use a microwave well.”
Although Cummings said she had never heard of Food Revolution Day, her passion and work have the same goals as the global movement. She teaches people how to prepare food and shows them how healthy food can be enjoyable.
Cummings said most farmers would not benefit from Food Revolution Day.
“Ninety percent of food supply grown in Alabama is shipped out of the state,” she said. “So, why would they participate in a food revolution? They need a revelation.”
Regardless of the high amount of food supply being shipped out the state, Cummings said she will continue to educate people on eating and cooking healthy.
“If we can teach the next generation about the land and farming,” she said, “then we have accomplished something.”