A Visit From Jamie Oliver & His Mobile Kitchen Big RigMon 03 Mar 2014
Story by Amber K. Stott
It’s not every day that you open your calendar to find “meeting with Jamie Oliver” written in ink! Yet, this past month, that’s exactly what my calendar said. For real!
Jamie Oliver came to Sacramento, California in January as part of the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation’s 40-week tour to promote food literacy. Oliver’s Big Rig, a semi-trailer furnished with teaching kitchen stations, is traveling throughout the state to bring attention to childhood obesity prevention.
Weeks before the Big Rig and Oliver arrived, I was thrilled to be asked to support the upcoming tour. I’m the founding executive director of a nonprofit called California Food Literacy Center. We teach food literacy (cooking, nutrition and where food comes from) to low-income elementary kids. We also train community members as volunteer food literacy instructors.
The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation also trains community members to teach on their Big Rig as Food Champions. When it came time to hire teachers for Sacramento’s rig, we knew it would be the perfect partnership! The foundation hired four of California Food Literacy Center’s instructors to help deliver cooking lessons. You can imagine these volunteers’ delight at this once in a lifetime opportunity!
The foundation was also kind enough to reserve space on the rig for the 4th and 5th graders from our pilot school, Capitol Heights Academy. We teach these kids weekly food literacy classes in their cafeteria, a space that has no working stove or oven. We make a lot of salsas, salads, sandwiches and foods like sunflower seed butter that can be eaten cold, because we simply lack the kitchen facilities.
Yet, that’s exactly what the foundation’s Big Rig offers! It’s equipped with beautiful stovetop teaching stations. We were thrilled for our kids to have the chance to cook warm food! We brought our students twice: once they cooked soup, the other time they cooked pancakes.
Because our kids have received weekly food literacy lessons for three years now, they were little pros on the rig. For several, this was their first time chopping with a knife. For many others, it was their first time flipping a pancake. For all, it was an opportunity to learn new skills in their food literacy journey.
Proudly, when our students stepped onto the rig, they were greeted not by strangers, but by their own food literacy instructors who had been hired by the foundation. For me, it was a proud moment to watch all of my students, young and old, engaged in that beautiful, traveling kitchen, doing what they all love best: eating healthy food while smiling!
The Food Champions and I also got to meet Mr. Oliver himself! He came just as he is: jeans, flannel shirt and tennis shoes. He asked questions about our community, wanted to know our opinions, and asked how he could help—and he meant it.
Our local Assembly member Roger Dickinson, who worked with California Food Literacy Center in 2012 to pass a resolution declaring September as “Food Literacy Month” in the state, also got to meet Oliver. He gave him a framed copy of our resolution and invited him back to join us for this year’s September celebrations.
The whole community was energized by the attention Oliver brought to the problem of childhood obesity, food access and clean water in schools. It’s not every day your local food movement gets a burst of inspiration from someone with global influence. We were all so proud that he chose our community to highlight!
Last week, the rig rolled on to its next destination, leaving behind a healthier community equipped with some delicious new recipes!
About the author: Amber K. Stott, founding executive director of the nonprofit California Food Literacy Center, inspires kids to eat their veggies and grows her own groceries in Sacramento, California. She blogs about living la vida locavore at Awake at the Whisk, and has been named a Food Revolution Hero by the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.
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