Jamie Oliver Takes Food Revolution to West Virginia

Jamie Oliver Takes Revolution to W. Virginia

Huntington, W.Va., holds the dubious distinction of being called America's unhealthiest city. Now, Jamie Oliver, one of Britain's hottest and most outspoken chefs, has come to town.

For his outspoken views on food sourcing and preparation, Oliver has been called a "food crusader." But those aren't the words he uses.

"I'm like a professional s***-stirrer," Oliver told "Nightline" in a recent interview. "And I know that's a naughty word to use, but that is kind of true."

He may not seem to fit in in Huntington. But Oliver is on a mission -- quite literally.

"The story of Huntington is about wanting to clean up the horizon of food," Oliver said. "And that's schools, and that's supermarkets and it's the restaurants and the fast food industry."

With a population of more than 50,000, Huntington has more pizza parlors than gyms. It's full of good deals for cheap meals, and it's not necessarily the most pedestrian-friendly of towns.

Oliver said Huntington could basically be anywhere in America.

"I've spent 18 months traveling around America, and this town looks and feels like any other," he said. "Yes, this area has some of the tip-of-the-iceberg of problems, but it's only 2 to 3 percent away from the national average. The reason I'm passionate to do this program is because this is about the whole of America.

"We're in a situation now where weight and extreme weight and heart disease is the biggest killer in this country today," he said. "It's not murder, it's not crime -- it is heart disease. ... And I hope I cause trouble by saying that it [unhealthy eating] is child abuse."

So Oliver decided to take matters into his own hands, all with the hopes of creating a positive chain reaction across this country. He shot a six-part reality series, "Jamie's Food Revolution," airing on ABC over three months. He challenged the residents of Huntington to change their minds, their habits and the contents of their refrigerators.

"I want Americans to enjoy food," Oliver said. "I want them to celebrate food. I want them to, on occasions, to have big cakes and great things. And I want them to indulge. ... It's not the extremes and the treats that are the problem. It's the everyday."

Back in his native England, Oliver became famous as "The Naked Chef" for persuading a nation to eat naked food, to get rid of the additives, the fake flavors, the processed food "product." The goal was food that was fresh, pure, unadorned.

"I've been doing this kind of campaign for nearly seven years now, and some have considered me a hippie, but the world [as seen] through my eyes is there's a lot of people in the public who are getting mugged," Oliver said. "They go to buy something that they think is one thing, but it's another. There are all sorts of chemicals. It's not food! And these chemicals have been banned because they hurt us. Duh!!!"

'It's About Education'

Oliver's work in England culminated in a successful campaign to change what British schoolchildren eat. His crusade for better student lunches bore fruit -- with more fruits and vegetables on public school menus.

"My general rule is that if everyone knew how to cook fresh produce from their local area, and Monday to Thursday within 20 minutes, you know, there's millions of recipes out there to be had," Oliver said.

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