A School Lunch Director Beat Jamie Oliver at His Own Game
Reality TV villain Rhonda McCoy is a real-life hero
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2017 4:37 PM CST
Chef and TV personality Jamie Oliver stands in front of a board with photos of residents of Huntington, West Virginia, during the taping of his reality series, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution."   (AP Photo/ABC, Holly Farrell)

(Newser) – It turns out it is possible to create healthy school meals without breaking the budget—as long as your town has "an overwhelming determination to prove a reality TV star wrong." In a massive dive into what's gone wrong with America's school lunches, Highline also looks at one instance where things went right. Jamie Oliver brought his show Food Revolution to Huntington in 2009 after the West Virginia city was named the unhealthiest in the country in order to fix what was wrong with its school lunches. The show, obviously, presented the celebrity chef as the hero, who had a perfect villain in the school district's food-service director. While Food Revolution showed Oliver's visit to Huntington as a success, Rhonda McCoy was besieged with hate mail and calls to resign.

But it turns out producers got the hero wrong. A survey found 77% of students were "very unhappy" with Oliver's meals, despite many of them containing more fat than allowed by federal guidelines. So McCoy got to work. She let school cooks adjust Oliver's recipes to make them more popular with students (no more cinnamon in the chili), got $50,000 in grants to improve school kitchens, and started buying fresh produce from student farmers. In one Huntington school, 18 cooks show up at 6am to make homemade tomato sauce, dice potatoes, and bake their own bread. But McCoy's success shouldn't be a surprise; long before Oliver showed up, her meals were already hitting health guidelines not met by 94% of US schools. It seems you can't believe everything you see on TV. Read the full story here.

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