Mediaplanet: How did Food Revolution Day start? Where did the idea come from?

Jamie Oliver: It was an idea I had about five years ago. I kept meeting passionate, brilliant food education campaigners from all over the world, but there was nothing really linking them so I decided to organise a day when everyone who cared about this issue could come together and really shout about it. We started back in 2012 with a couple of volunteers and laptops, and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger every year since.

MP: What’s the goal of Food Revolution Day?  

JO: To raise awareness of the importance of food education across the world – we’re facing an epidemic of obesity and diet-related disease and we need to find urgent solutions. This year I’ve started a petition, and I’m hoping it will show governments just how passionately people feel about the importance of compulsory practical food education for all our kids. The bottom line is that the next generation will live shorter lives than their parents if nothing is done. 

MP: Where does your passion for food literacy come from?

JO: I truly believe that it’s a child’s basic human right to be taught about food and cooking so that they can look after themselves and their future families. In past generations, this skill would have been handed down, but over the last 30 years or so, we’ve lost that, which means kids are growing up with no idea about what’s good food and what’s rubbish.

As a result, we’re seeing more and more kids with weight issues – over 42 million children under five years old in the world are overweight or obese. Last year in Canada, I launched the Better Food Fund with Sobeys, and as part of that, the guys there have developed a cooking program with Free the Children called ‘Home Cook Heroes’, which teaches teenage school kids all about food. It’s one of many things around the world that is being done well, but there are too few initiatives like it. We need more.

"I truly believe that it’s a child’s basic human right to be taught about food and cooking so that they can look after themselves and their future families."

MP: Do you think education is key to a healthier society?

JO: Yes, absolutely.  I’ve seen it work – my kitchen garden project in the UK, as well as in the work of various pioneers around the world, such as Stephanie Alexander in Australia. (Through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program).

MP: How can parents get their kids excited about food and cooking?

JO The easiest way is to get them involved in cooking from an early age. When kids have ownership over their food, they’re far more likely to eat it. Even when they were tiny, my kids used to tear up herbs and get involved with simple jobs, such as mixing – they absolutely loved it. Make it fun – if the kitchen gets a bit messy once in a while, so what! 

MP: What is one action people can take in their daily lives to make cooking enjoyable?  

JO: For me, and for a lot of people, cooking is a real pleasure anyway. But, if you don’t like cooking, I think the important thing is to find a handful of quick dishes that you can prepare easily and enjoy making, then see where you go from there.

MP: How has the local food movement changed the way people understand and purchase their food?  

JO: For most people, the supermarket is still the place to go to get their weekly shop, but many supermarkets now source seasonally and locally, which is great. I think for some people, there will always be more of a desire to go even more local, and that means farmers’ markets, farm shops and specialist outlets. For me, as long as people are buying fresh food and not too much processed food, we’re in a good place.

MP: Why is it important for Canadians to be educated about animal welfare and Certified Humane products?  

JO: I’ve always been a big supporter of any movement that promotes higher animal welfare and I’ve made TV programmes about the poultry industry, pig farming and sustainable fishing. I eat meat, but I’ve always felt that if we’re going to eat meat then we have a duty of care to those animals that we breed for food.

During the course of my programme-making, I’ve seen some of the worst conditions you can imagine for animals, so I would always steer people towards higher welfare. I firmly believe in quality over quantity where meat is concerned – it’s better for us, better for the animals and it’s more sustainable.

MP: What is your favourite kitchen tool and why?  

JO: I love my pestle & mortar, but the tool I use more than anything else is my speed-peeler. It’s a simple, little piece of kit which costs only a couple of dollars, but I use it almost every day.