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Chef Jamie Oliver: Does his 'Food Revolution' concept infringe on personal freedom?

Jamie Oliver

The second season of British chef Jamie Oliver's healthy-eating program for ABC debuted Tuesday night to dismal ratings and some backlash. It's not that people don't appreciate Oliver's efforts to improve school lunches and combat childhood obesity -– they just don’t like his heavy-handed approach. Here's Chez Pazienza's take on the Huffington Post:

[I] get the argument that little good comes from giving kids milk that pumps them full of sugar and empty calories, but is an outright ban on it really the way to go? What about the child who just likes chocolate milk and can actually handle drinking a carton of it without ballooning into a mocha-colored Violet Beauregarde? At what point do we draw the line? At what point do we decide to stop protecting some at the expense of the legitimate desires of others?

I'm all for healthier options at America's schools; that and food education are musts at this point in our evolution as a nation. But there's a difference between an option and a mandate. And while it makes sense for Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolutionaries to fire all guns at once with the understanding that it may be what's required to effect even a small amount of necessary change, there's still something decidedly draconian about pushing to reflexively relieve us of our freedom of choice when it comes to what we eat.

A similar debate is taking place around a well-intentioned "fat tax" proposed in Arizona, under which annual fees would be raised specifically for those Medicaid patients who don't take steps to improve their health. Not only might such a plan inspire obese people to lose weight, it would also mean that health insurance premiums don't go up for everyone. That's not how our readers perceive it, though. The heated conversation happening on our discussion board raises a myriad of hot-topic concerns, including personal freedom, privacy and genetics.

If Oliver were to join the discussion, he'd likely say that, like his television program, the "fat tax" is a noble effort to help. In a February interview with columnist Patt Morrison, he said he didn't see his show as a job, but rather as a responsibility:

It's not about being a food Nazi. The madness of health in America is just the amount of [bad] additives -- frankly, things that are banned in Europe. There's nothing wrong with a burger, but if you add up all the ingredients, all the additives of a cheap dodgy burger? It's about goodness and whole foods and nutrients versus the lowest form of stuff.


The soda tax fallacy

Our schools' sweet tooth

"Food Revolution" recap: Season 2 gets underway in L.A.

Moviegoers should know they're consuming a tub of calories

Meghan Daum: The GOP's feeding frenzy over Michelle Obama

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Jamie Oliver films in Los Angeles for the second season of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." Credit: Mitch Haddad / Associated Press /ABC


Comments () | Archives (62)

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Save the flavored milk for home. Get rid of it in schools. And that is just a starting point. Pay now or pay later when it comes to children's health.


I really like Jamie Oliver's approach and I think it's about time we stop being so politically correct about the obesity epidemic in this country. Schools have a responsibility to feed children quality, nutritious food, not the toxic garbage they are feeding them now.

I'm all for personal choice, but if Americans want to exercise their right to eat far too much junk food and become obese, then they can also start to pay for the increased costs of health care that result from the exercise of that right. Personal choice comes with personal responsibility. You can't have one without the other.

Janice Chamberlain

Bravo on this opinion. Finally a bit of sanity. Let's focus on the big picture - getting kids more active and eating foods that are rich in nutrients. If a little flavor and sweetness helps to get the good stuff down the gullet, then so be it. There's a big difference between a carton of flavored milk, which is chock full of nutrients that kids need, and a can of soda that has no nutrients. Our kids today are both overweight AND undernourished.

Karen Dutcher

"they just don’t like his heavy-handed approach" Are you serious? The thing that we are all too afraid of here is the truth. The truth is, this man brings reality to light and people either run and hide or attack! Rarely do we stand and listen. It's too scary for us because we are too lazy to do anything about it. We don't want to be bothered because it would take too much effort, and even worse, would cost money! If you call bringing the truth to light "heavy handed" then I guess he's guilty! I, for one, applaud his effort and admire his tenacity. I hope beyond hope, that he can get through to someone. We can get behind him knowing that his intentions are not purely how much money he can make off the stupid Americans. It's time to start taking responsibility and stop trying to pass the buck. This is our life people. Take charge here! Stop shoving that disgusting meat pudding down your throat and teach your children why eating healthy is important and be the example!!! Our six year olds do not even know what a potato or tomato is! This is frightening!

Karen Dutcher

And Pllllleeeeaas stop with the whinning about how this is all an invasion of our rights, blah, blah, blah! Go soak your head! There are some of us out here who want to see this man making up the lunch menu for our kids schools. What about OUR rights!! I say let him in! I pay school tax every year and then pay more for the lunch served to my child, therefore, it is my right to have a say in what food choices are made for my children while at school! I have a desire to have healthy meals served in my child's cafateria! What about my rights? What do you say to that! I don't want milk served in front of my child, therefore, it should be removed from the school grounds? Really? Is this what you're afraid of? I guess my children should not be welcome in school since we are vegans. I am being relieved of my right to choose because some others want to serve milk as a main source of drink in the schools and we are vegans!

Chris Brandow

there is not a lot of "personal freedom" when a. it is a large institution setting the menu in the first place and b. the people making choices are not old enough to understand the consequences of the choice. these are still children. we don't give them the options of what kind of math to learn or which grammar rules to follow. Sure there are limits on this kind of an approach, but just as we spend the entire day teaching them academic subjects and how to get along with others, we are also teaching them what is and is not healthy.


go Jamie Go..

Who does not listen, let them pay for the obese kids illnesses and troubles forwever !
Not everyone else.

The continuation of dummy down America.


As the average person's health care premiums are ever increasing due to the lifestyle choices of others and if our tax dollars are going to keep paying to treat chronic health conditions related to poor diet then yes, I think there should be some strict guidelines on food purchased at government funded (public) schools and institutions. It makes no (financial... or common) sense to provide unhealthy food with one hand and then write a check to cover the negative health outcomes with the other.


I think it’s so easy for everyone to say “let him in” and help feed our kids healthy food but it’s not that easy. Healthy food costs more money. The state government in Sacramento ultimately regulates and mandates what the nutritional value of the food ought to be in schools and what the cost of every lunch must be. If you want to change the food that is served in your schools then you should take your "RIGHTS" to Sacramento and demand that the regulations that public schools must follow be changed. The state of CA and government legislation demands that schools MUST make a profit when selling school lunches to offset the "Free and Reduced" lunches they MUST provide by the law to low income students. So there it is. The National School Lunch Program requires that every school needs to be able to sell the regular lunches and the "Free and Reduced" lunches (which are the same lunches that the low income students get) without losing money. To do that large "Junk Food" corporations go in and tell them that they will get a reduced rate and abide by the state laws. Again there it is. The school boards are made out to be the "Bad guys" on this TV show but they have to follow the state and national programs guidelines for each and every lunch they sell/ give students financially and nutritionally. Yes schools make the menus but the school's food service directors MUST follow exactly to the letter the nutritional guidelines that the US Government and States mandate or schools could lose their Gov funding! That’s probably why the school boards can't change anything that doesn't follow the US Dept of Agricultures guidelines and the National School Lunch Programs. The school boards and schools unfortunately have their hands tied! Follow the governments and states guidelines or lose funding! That’s the way it is people!!! Also the guidelines they have in place of how many calories and what the nutritional value should be is sooo old that they still see no need to change these guidelines. Until the state and federal governments change THEIR guidelines for you and
1.) BROWN BAG IT!... Make your own food for your kids to eat for lunch!
2.) Go to your legislators in Sacramento and Washington and demand the change!!!
3.) Enroll your kids in private schools. Private schools get better lunches because they do not get federal funding or tax payer money so I would suggest also if you want your kids to eat better lunches then enroll them in private schools and find out which company is serving your kids lunch. Oh wait…can’t afford private schools for your kids? Then take it to Sacramento and run your demands on to them! It’s their job to make the changes you want, even when it comes to what your kids can eat!
Again it’s all about MONEY and the US GOVERNMENT is in bed with "Fast Food" Corporations with tax breaks etc…period!!!
If Jamie Oliver wants schools to change what kids eat, he is going about it all wrong. He needs to take his frustration to the State and Federal Government! But I guess he and his producers know that would be too big of a project for him and his TV show. Fight the source of the problem!

The pianist

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Thanks for your time.

Lizzy Lou

Soon enough our kids won't be allowed to bring sack lunches. School lunches are exactly the reason kids are obese and under nourished. Smarten up LA he's just trying to help bring light to a serious issue in our nation. I hope he goes to my kids school next!


Save the "personal freedom" argument for something that hasn't been proved to slowly kill you and give you diabetes, heart disease or cancer...Like how about we make this argument for cannabis? You guys seriously think an 8 year old is going to "make the right decision" when given the options? We're in the middle of an obesity crisis and you guys think this should still be up for debate? This country is getting what it deserves.

Ellen Cassidy

Regardless of what you think of his methods, Jamie Oliver is fighting for the right goal: the return of our diet to true FOOD, not that which is made by "food scientists".

To those of you who don't (want to) recognize the increasing epidemic of obesity, I tell you this:

Twenty years ago, I was the "fat kid" of my class, to the point of ridicule and shame. Now, when I went back to visit a teacher in the very same school I once attended, that little chubby girl I was would be in the top 20% of skinny kids in the classroom.

Gretchen Heffler

Lets look at what we as students were eating in the 1960's cafeterias: one type of milk - whole and white, various made food items, no pre-processed stuff with lots of preservatives. The rise of fast food has fattened the US. I understand the matter of freedom, but I seem to remember as a child I had no freedom other than what I was told to do by adults - home and school. I never got to drink soda as a child, so as an adult, water is my beverage of choice. Children's actions and eating are not up to the child, that is why there are adults. Adults have freedom and can make their own choice to drink flavored milk. You go Jamie! Fight the good fight!


Oliver is a hypocrite. He's just milking his new health schitck, He sure seemed happy when he was pushing his porkchops, butter and clotted creams as the "Naked Chef"!!!


My 13 year old wants co-ed sleepovers to be an option instead of having to deal with my mandate of 'You really have lost your dear little mind, right?' My dear original poster, have you slipped and hit your head recently? Children don't get options. They aren't mature enough to make decisions regarding things that effect their entire lives, such as heart disease, teen pregnancy, and STDs. Jamie's approach isn't heavy handed enough considering the impact the American diet's having on children. You do realize that most kids won't live to be as old as their parents because of their diets, correct? So let them eat whatever cr*p the bureaucrats throw at them, and they pay the bill later in the form of a fat tax? Are you really thinking this through? Do you not realize that nutrition plays a key role in memory, knowledge retention, energy? You're all for raising a group of kids with lower than previous average skills so they can contribute to society by being... fast food workers? You've got to be pretty myopic to think that poor diet ONLY effects a person's waistline. And if this were an argument about genetics, obesity rates would REMAIN THE SAME as opposed to being on the rise as they are. Judging by the original post and some of these comments, America's in dire need of an education. Go, Jamie, go!


I applaud almost everyone here that posted for the right to have clean healthful choices in our schools and (dare I say it?) ELSEWHERE in Ca as well as the entire U.S.
Bravo Jaime! This is a genuine Food Revolution! People need to wake up and demand better quality food to eat here in America!
We must see that as a nation, heath care costs are skyrocketing, obesity is now the new"norm" and children will face not only poorer health, but shortened lives by eating the actual crap that is being marketed to us by not only the fast food industry, but major chemically enhanced food companies like Monsanto and Con Agra Foods!
Heavy Handed? Who is behind this misinformation? That's the REAL question!


I applaud almost everyone here that posted for the right to have clean healthful choices in our schools and (dare I say it?) ELSEWHERE in Ca as well as the entire U.S.
Bravo Jaime! This is a genuine Food Revolution! People need to wake up and demand better quality food to eat here in America!
We must see that as a nation, heath care costs are skyrocketing, obesity is now the new"norm" and children will face not only poorer health, but shortened lives by eating the actual crap that is being marketed to us by not only the fast food industry, but major chemically enhanced food companies like Monsanto and Con Agra Foods!
Heavy Handed? Who is behind this misinformation? That's the REAL question!


Give an 8 year old the choice between regular and chocolate milk and guess what he'll choose every single time. Duh, chocolate. Yes, they're too young for choice. It's our responsibility to give them healthy, unprocessed, unfried foods. Why is that so difficult?

Listen to this man, he's saving our kids lives.


America is the most OBESE and UNHEALTHIEST nation IN THE WORLD!!! And we are worried that taking sugary milk and sodas away from our kids is infringing on our civil liberties? Wow- those corporations have us trained! America uses more additives, processed fats & processed sugars than other countries (the same companies even change the same foods to be healthier for other countries!)
The USDA is supposed to be protecting us- they aren't. Schools should give our kids FRESH/HEALTHY foods- they aren't. And WE should be DEMANDING that companies stop making the junk that is killing us- from fast food/restaurants to the grocery store.
The chef quoted above it correct- it is the freshness of ingredients- but that is what Jamie Oliver said as well.


What's the school board afraid of? Instead of getting on the defensive they should be welcoming Jamie with open arms!!


Why do those who say ' healthy food costs more ' completely ignore the outlying costs of obesity, decreases in productivity, increased mortality, and medical costs from diabetes, heart disease and others?


"there's still something decidedly draconian about pushing to reflexively relieve us [!!!] of our freedom of choice when it comes to what we eat."

Us? It's interesting that on this "controversy," right-wingers and libertarians unconsciously identify themselves as the emotional equals of schoolchildren.

And not just kids, but kids BEING FED WITH TAXPAYER MONEY.

Why should adults (normal adults, anyway) care, particularly, about kids' "freedom of choice" for one taxpayer-funded meal a day? They're kids.

cadel favreaux

well the idea of having a strict, nutritious lunch menu being "an infringement on personal freedoms" is like saying that having a strict academic curriculum is the same thing, that those students who would rather play with blocks up until 7th grade should be able to do so, and all of these "learning nazi" teaching concepts are harming peoples individual liberties.
if the state is funding the school, and the state is looking to keep down healthcare costs, they should take steps to feed children healthier meals, because they really dont have a say when it comes to what they eat in their own homes, but in a public facility, they should be able to mandate a certain level of healthfulness in their food just as much as they mandate a certain academic standard.


I think bigger point is being missed here: LAUSD cannot afford the type of food this JO is suggesting. With that being said, there is a lot LAUSD can do with the money they have...getting them to change is the rub


The real infringement on personal freedom is a school not allowing food from home or having a list of things children cannot bring in their lunches. Now that's outrageous.


Chocolate milk isn't that bad. Yes, it has sugar, but it also has lots of vitamins and minerals. Some kids don't link to drink milk at all. It's better for them to drink chocolate milk than to skip drinking milk.


The actual patty of a McDonald's hamburger contains nothing but beef, salt, and pepper.


Food Revolution is simply a REALITY SHOW. Oliver doesn't give a hoot about healthy kids' meals or he would be shooting his tv show in another California city, who begged him to come. But, he didn't care about THOSE kids. That city wasn't hip enough. Jaime only cares about ratings and stardom and money.

Why are American parents acting like blind sheep and allowing a foreigner to speak for their own kids and make changes which affect THEIR kids instead of doing it themselves? That is YOUR JOB as parents!! Jaime, we can handle our American kids ourselves. There's a reason America is the strongest country on the planet and it has NOTHING to do with Oliver and his reality show ilk.

Anonymous in Seattle

There is a lot of interesting discussion on the board, with a lot of valid points on all sides. Cost is a huge issue for schools, especially with the budget questions they face every year. Also, change is rough on a lot of people, but generally it is harder for adults than children. I have not watched the american season of Jamie Oliver's show, but did happen to see what he did in England. It was really quite fascinating what he had to go through in order to get everything aligned. He had to keep the cost the same as before, convince the overworked "cooks' in the "kitchens" to work harder to prepare everything fresh, and probably his most difficult task was convincing the kids to even TRY the new food. He did it and succeeded though, so in my opinion, give him a shot. Who could it possibly hurt to try to get kids to eat healthier? Again, if he's just trying to get attention, why not let him? We need to think of the future and what he can offer, even if he does it for the wrong reasons, though I believe thoroughly that his heart is in the right place, having seen what he did in England. What I'm most worried about is the parents. The school board will cave to the will of the parents who elected them if they intend on keeping their jobs, and the children will eventually fall into the routine after a bit of fussing. They're KIDS. They will be picky, they'll kick and scream and whine about things not being fair, but it's their nature when change happens. Like others have said, it's with the parents that it starts, they're the ones who will make or break this for Jamie, the show, and the country. The parents need to hold true to their expectations and set a good example. Honestly, even with the ability to make the right decision that most seem to believe children incapable of, how many of us as people take the easy way out most of the time. How many of us brown bag our own lunches to work every day like some have demanded of offended parents? Most of us in the U.S. can eat healthier, myself included, but what we've been doing so far has only gotten worse. We need to educate ourselves and our children (they are the future, after all), and if we need Jamie Oliver to be the vessel for that then let him come, no matter his intentions.

Seth Resler

It's clear that children in this country do not have the same personal freedoms that adults have, so I don't know if the personal freedom argument works here. We don't allow anyone under the age of 21 to imbibe alcohol - is that infringing upon their freedom? For that matter, I notice that you can't even comment on this article about food on the LA Times website without being at least 13 years old. Is that trampling the freedom of kids? Or is it just protecting them?


As a fitness professional, a big part of my job is disavowing people of the idea that they can't live without having at least one sweet or an alcoholic beverage a day. The fact is, you don't need crappy food. Maybe Jaime Oliver is heavy-handed. Thank God someone is. Go around this country. Morbid obesity would seem to be the norm. I see some of the people I grew up with in TX, and they've all got one foot in the grave. It's not genetic. It's a cultural pandemic of eating too much and eating the wrong things. We need to start taking nutrition seriously. Kids need to learn healthy eating patterns from the start. Let's set them up for success. Let's set them up to be healthy and energetic. It's not only a dire public health issue, but a financial one at that. And to serve that end, I do not feel that depriving children of sweets for one meal a day is too great a sacrifice.


Considering that 99% of the LAUSD kids get free lunch, it would certainly help. Although most of these kids throw away half of the food they are given. What a waste! They would rather eat their flaming hot Cheetos! I say let them starve!

Simple Facts

I'm all for letting the liberals control what I eat.

So long as I get to cotrol how they run and what they do with the rest of THIER lives.


When I was a kid, we had access to chocolate milk maybe once a week, and strawberry milk once a month. No one ever said we didn't get enough, and no one went crazy when we had it. The answer, I believe, is moderation. Don't remove it, just offer it less often.


Kids like a lot of things that simply are not good for them. Filling a kid full of sugar and fat does not make them smarter. Public schools just want to keep kids medicated and/or happy in order to better control their behavior. J Oliver is just pointing out the hypocrisy. I watched the segment, but most parents are either too busy or disinterested to even care. All they want is for their kid to be fed for free and come home happy and contented at the end of the day.

SD Edit

It's ironic that for decades, watchdog groups have been complaining about school lunches being unhealthy. (Remember the Reagan-era, "ketchup is a vegetable" debate?) Then as soon as someone makes an attempt to improve them, there's a huge backlash.

I think it's important to remember that school lunch programs are government subsidized, and therefore the government has the right (and many would argue, the responsibility) to make those meals reasonably healthy. If parents want their kids to eat cupcakes and chocolate milk instead, they can skip the government-subsidized lunch and pack their own.


Why should taxpayer dollars subsidize childhood obesity? If they want crap junk food, buy it on their own dime, not mine.


Whatever's going to change some bad habits is ok. I think it's funny, though, that a guy from a country with the worst cooking habits should be coming over here to tell us how to cook, when his own country's cooking is so lacking.


Although a CA native I raised my daughter in Japan and she went to Japanese elementary school. Each week we got a copy of the menu from the school. The ingredients for each of the dishes were listed. Most of the food was cooked from scratch in the school kitchen. Although it was public school we did pay a monthly fee for the food. It went up every second grade I think to adjust for kids eating more. I believe it was about 20 - 30 dollars a month.
Health and fresh vegetables and what they were eating was very important.
Japanese kids all eat in the classroom with their teacher. They put their desks together and form a little group. Kids take turn rotating as servers. They take little trolleys in and actually serve each child the stew etc. So they are involved in what they are eating and how much they get. Seconds were permitted if you had finished everything. I don't believe it was an option to bring your own lunch.
As a Californian of course I always ate outside but I imagine they eat inside as it rains a lot here plus it teaches kids to work together, be respectful and probably a bit of table manners on the side (!) And the teacher is with them to talk to the students etc. Not in some teacher's room.


Really good article with another side to the story. Jamie is laughing all the way to the bank. He is loving the drama as his paycheck expands. He is offering a band aid instead of a solution it isnt the school lunch its more complex than that. Yet people love these reality shows and sensationalism. Maybe read up on his Rotterham fat clinic and see how much of a terrible waste of taxpayers money he can be before buying into it. Be leaders dont be sheep. Think and just say no, he doesnt pay the taxes in america afterall.


I think he is attempting to feed americas desire for drama. He wants to win like Charlie Sheen. Ever wonder why he is in America afterall and not saving his countries children? Check out Jamie Olivers track record on costing taxpayers money his Rotterham fat clinic is an excellent example.. Jamie my friends is laughing all the way to the bank on his new fruit and veg kick. He wasnt always that way when it came to cooking. School lunch changes are not going to solve obesity. Its a more complex issue than that. I do believe in educaation in re to healthy food choices but it doesnt need to be outsourced by someone from the UK. I also believe in exercise and other lifestyle changes that will not guarantee health but give you a chance at a longer major medical bill free life. I find his tactics disgusting and revolting. He isnt pressuring people because he cares he is doing it because the camera is on him and the more attention he gets the bigger his ratings and money he gets. When the cameras go off you will see his true colors. In closing I would add its easy to be an armchair spokesperson for Jamie Oliver blaming everything for ones obesity than the obvious. Get up and move around. Turn off the TV. Quit watching him and walk walk walk.

Jesus Christ   (Mary`s Son / Joseph's Step Son)

The Entire US Population is being duped, poisoned, and starved to death; by corporate lies, greed, and corruption that goes all the way up the chain of US politics and food subsidies! Obesity is a health epidemic! 50% of the children are OBESE! That means not just a little overweight, but life threateningly OBESE! When does personal freedumb trump health? When it involves personal choice! These kids cannot decide for them selves, they are too young to be legally responsible. Their parents and every other tax payer is footing the bill for their food through school taxes. Instead of meat, the tax payers are getting 15% sludge, bread the at is so diluted with enriched sugar, after being bleached to death all in the name of saving money; for the manufacturer. Its time to stop! Its time to wake up! Every Single Persona in America should be outraged! Your Food is Literally Killing You!


A Chicago area school has banned brown bag lunches because they deem them unhealthy.


it's not about banning all bad food. its like he said - real food.

chocolate milk is great, so long as the milk comes from a dairy cow not treated with hormones and the chocolate is real milk chocolate, not a factory additive.

it's the hormones, pesticides and man made additives that are making us sick. We are not built to eat synthetic food.


I have always said that once a group is given power to take away things, others will follow. Pretty soon people will be standing outside to eat candy bars. We will have to have fast food delivered through the back door. I think this show is good and brings up lots of positive thoughts and ideas.

Steven M.

LAUSD used to have a Youth Services Program. Instead of having youngsters become delinquents, they had programs for exercise, such as softball, basketball, volleyball and the like.

The reality is that people are more focused on the obsity factor from a food perspective and not an exercise perspective.

Let's be candid here. Youth Services hired staff and kept youngsters busy and people who supply the food make money, too. who do you think has the money for the lobbyists?

In the 60's and 70's we didn't have obesity problems, but had no problem in obtaining flavored milk, soda-pop, candy or chips. If you have noticed, the childhood obesity problem started running up a red flag in the community, within the past 10-15 years. Hispanic and Black children, have a higfher incidence of obesity, because their GENETIC DISPOSITION and compounding this, is the ready availabilty of low-priced and high caloric food that is available.

Back in the day, "choice" was taught by parents. today, we can blame the parents of these over-weight youngsters, for not teaching "choice."


when i was in the usmc...one ssgt asked the sgtmajor of the marine corps at all hands get together...why over weight marines were being forced out of the
service...he complained that genetically he just couldn't lose weight...and be trim...the sgtmajor became visibly upset and slammed his fist on the podium and asked if he had ever seen pictures of the halocaust......he then remarked that he didn't see a "fat body" in any of those pictures...I thought that was a good remark....taking personal responsibility for your obesity is a must....blaming genetics and fast food is a cop out....personal accountability really doesn't exist like it should...


Jamie Oliver is simply doing what parents should be doing....taking charge of children's nutrition...and making schools comply with proper dietary
formulas for healthy children.

Frink Stink

Fat people don't like being told they're fat.

Oliver's approach isn't heavy handed, this country has simply become a coddled, PC wimp-mess.

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