"The issue really is not about food, it's about education," he added. "If you feel confident to sit there and put a pan on and cut up some fresh chicken and a few little bits and pieces, and know what spices and oils to make it taste heavenly, if you can do that, often you can save money and, really, it's the transition of highly-processed food to real food."
Stacie Edwards, 35, was one Huntington resident who welcomed the British invasion.
"We were eating what normal people eat -- you know, the boxed meals, packaged hamburgers, cookies, chips and snacks," Edwards said. "It was unbelievable. But with four kids, I kind of felt like I had to have the easy stuff around."
Edwards said she was shocked when Oliver grouped all the food they ate in a normal week on a table.
"That food on the table was definitely a shock," Edwards said. "I thought there was no way that we ate that much in a week. But the 30 frozen pizzas that were on the floor, well, I did buy 30 frozen pizzas because they were on sale. But when they disappeared in four days, I knew that, OK, there's seven of us -- something is going on."
Edwards said Oliver was surprised at what her family ate.
"He was just like, 'Oh, my goodness!'" Edwards said. "He couldn't believe it. But you know, me and all 50 of my friends probably eat like this. ... I was just like everyone else -- it's too expensive to eat healthy. Everybody around here, that's just one of the things you hear. And for me it was convenience, it was easier, I didn't want to cook, you know. So I just went through the drive-thrus and bought the frozen pizzas and here we are in the mess that we're in. We're all overweight.
"What we've tried to do here in Huntington is a 'food revolution,'" Oliver said. "It sounds big to say that, but we're starting off with something really small here that we want to grow. ... People want better for themselves and their kids."
Whether they wanted better than to be the butt of a national joke, or they liked the cachet of a superstar in town, or they wanted a shot at reality-TV fame, Huntington residents turned out en masse for a cooking class from Oliver, all with the hope of changing their lives.
But not everyone was welcoming. Local DJ Rod Willis took to the airwaves to denounce what he saw as foreign, unwarranted meddling.
"Damn right," Willis told ABC News. "I mean, think about it for a minute: It's nothing that we don't already know. It's just personal responsibility. And Jamie Oliver is coming to town to, I don't know. ... I mean, what is he going to do here? ... I think he thinks he is going to change everything. We know, but we just choose to eat what we want to eat."
Oliver called for a long view.
"You have to put it in perspective," said Oliver. "The future of your country is in the form of children, and they're beautiful and they're everything. And if you proficiently give them s*** every day from the age of three until 18, by the time they're 20, they're screwed -- their habits and their taste buds. The world through my eyes is screwed up, but I don't think it's hard to fix it. All it needs is the parents of America to say, 'We want better! And we want it now!'