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LAUSD fires back at 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution'

April 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles Unified School District is firing back at celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. District officials were not happy with Tuesday night's premiere of his ABC reality show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," so they invited the media inside the district's central kitchen facility to get a firsthand look at student meal options.

If you saw the season two premiere, you might have come away doubting the merit of the LAUSD's nutrition program.

The show debuted with Oliver trying to get involved with selecting the food served in LAUSD campuses. The episode, shot in January when Ramon Cortines was still superintendent, showed Oliver being denied access as he attempted to pitch his healthy lunch idea to the board.

The British chef was steamed at being shut out of the LAUSD and was unable to probe into food quality. His hard hitting remarks scorched relations with officials at the school district.

"Some of the things we did not recognize: we do not serve donuts, we don't serve pop and candy bars at schools," said Dennis Barrett, LAUSD director of food services. "We're not allowed to serve a lot of things that were shown."

Wednesday at LAUSD's Newman Nutrition Center, officials gave media a chance to view the taster's café, where 30,000 kids come yearly to taste potential menu items. Some of the offerings include Quinoa with green beans, sweet potato and chicken.

Chicken Tandoor and Asian Pad Thai are a few "thumbs up" items for next year's menu. Chef Mark Baida has 77 cents per plate to put together a good tasting, good for you meal, although you'll still see pizza and burgers on the menu.

The food is baked not fried and served in proper portions.

"We've eliminated all the palm oils, we've eliminated MSG, we've eliminated a lot of trans fats. Everything that we serve is whole grain or whole wheat at least 51 percent," said Barrett.

Plus sodium levels are lower than USDA standards. And when it comes to produce, crispy broccoli bites, raw sweet potato sticks, fresh carrots, even edamame, and two choices of fresh fruit are available at every meal.

"We invited Jamie to come in and work on our menu committee. He has not replied," said LAUSD spokesman Robert Alaniz. "Jaime come in and work with us, but leave your cameras behind."

Oliver's show is all about creating healthier menus for students, and a number of schools across the country have allowed him on campuses.

"Our dialogue with LAUSD is ongoing and I'm optimistic that they will be able to implement real changes that have a long-lasting impact for L.A. kids," Oliver said in a written response to Wednesday's news conference.

You can catch "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC7.

You can check LAUSD's school menus and get nutritional information on items on Cafe LA's website.