Jamie Oliver comes to town

[This guest post and all photos are by Nick Saul, Executive Director of The Stop Community Food Centre]

I’ve known and admired Jamie Oliver’s work as a chef and food activist for a long time, but I didn’t expect the intensity of the frenzy when he came to visit our After School Program at The Stop‘s Green Barn this morning. He really does have rock star status. You could just feel the excitement building before he pulled up—cameras and  reporters everywhere, people bustling around. The kids, meanwhile, were just doing their thing, chopping and prepping the lunch of homemade chicken nuggets, salad, pancakes and more. When he arrived, Jamie was exhausted (he and his wife just had their 4th baby seven weeks ago!) but one of the nicest guys going—laid back but also completely engaged. I showed him around and he was totally impressed by what we’re doing at The Stop. In fact, he told me he’d been all over the world and it was one of the coolest places he’d been.

I figured I’d be asking the questions but he turned the tables and interviewed me. We talked about the greenhouse, our Global Roots garden, our kids’ educational program, the emergency side of our work and even touched on the short-term thinking of capitalism. Well, I touched on it…

Later, he sat down with the kids and had some of the food they prepared. They loved him because he got right down with them, asked them questions and made them laugh.

One of the things his visit really made clear to me is how essential it is to have a place—like The Stop or his Ministry of Food projects in England—where people can come together and get engaged with food. We agreed that the key to changing attitudes toward food and ultimately changing the food system itself is getting people involved—whether it’s eating, cooking or growing. It alters something for people—low-income or high—it opens them up to the bigger picture of how food operates in our society, how it’s connected to so many other important issues.

It was a really fun morning. I hope we’ll see lots more mind-melding with Jamie Oliver and The Stop. (Check out twitter for minute by minute reporting on the visit and lots more photos.)

UPDATE: Check out Jennifer Bain’s story on the visit in The Star


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