Friday, May 14, 2010

Kicking it with the Council - An Interview

This Giveaway is now CLOSED.

Well today’s interview is with Patrick O’Neal. For those of you that watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution you will remember Patrick as the Principal of Central City Elementary in Huntington, WV. Since the show has gone off the air we have been very curious to see how the Food Revolution is doing in Huntington so we thought it would be great to do a little investigating.

Child Care Council (CCC): How long have you been principal of Central City Elementary?
Patrick O’Neal (PO): I have been principal at Central City Elementary for 7 years, in which 2 years I was the assistant.

CCC: Has the dynamic of the school changed since Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution was taped there? Would you say that the show made the school a better place?
PO: I would have to say that the dynamics of the school has changed because it has made us more aware of the issues with processed foods. Also, the simple idea of having lunch with natural ingredients just makes sense; you know what you are eating. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the show has made us a better place, but I will say that it has made us more aware of eating healthier.

CCC: It was very interesting to watch the show but as we all know the picture painted onscreen is not always the full truth. What were some of the toughest aspects of the taping?
PO: The toughest aspect of taping would be the spontaneity. They would come up with ideas and would expect me to drop everything to meet their needs. Being in a structured environment such as a school, it is difficult to drop everything and make adjustment to your school day. They were fortunate to have a flexible principal and school to meet their needs.

CCC: Have the changes to natural food over processed food lasted at your school? What about the other schools?
PO: After the taping of the show, we did continue with the cooking of natural ingredients and our cooks adjusted wonderfully – they are an awesome group of ladies. As for the other schools in Cabell County, they are making the transition to cooking with natural ingredients. However, time is short and there are several schools that must have the training. The other issue that has occurred with this transition is the lack of funds to insure all schools have been trained for the new menus.

CCC: There was some drama over the flavored milks served in the schools, are they back in the schools or were you able to completely eliminate them? I was shocked to learn that there was as much or more sugar in the flavored milks as a soda.
PO: The flavored milk is being served once again. This issue of flavored milk is beyond my control and needs to be addressed to the federal government, in particularly – USDA. However, we have eliminated the amount of flavored milk they have during the school day. The cooks accommodated me by serving only white milk during breakfast and only allowing one chocolate or strawberry during lunch. As the principal of Central City Elementary, I would like to have a say in what is being served to my students because there are other means in providing calcium in a student’s diet.

CCC: Are the majority of students eating the food served now or are more kids’ brown bagging their lunches than were prior to the show?
PO: At the beginning, we did have a drop in the number of students eating school lunch and as a result, our number of students bringing their lunch had increased. However, as we continued with the new menu, our number of students eating school lunch has increased which I find outstanding.

CCC: What does a typical weekly menu look like at Central City Elementary now?
PO: Our menu consists of meals made from natural ingredients. We have on a daily basis, fresh fruit available to our students.

Prior to the Revolution                  After the Revolution

CCC: One of the most shocking things on the show for me was when Jamie went to the classroom and none of the children could identify the fruits and vegetables that he had in the classroom. I was completely shocked but then I was in awe and amazed at the turn around the teacher made in her class. She did a full on nutrition boot camp with her class and then they were informed and able to make conscious decisions. Is nutrition a part of your curriculum at Central City now? I realize that nutrition is one of the things that get cut in classes pressured to meet testing guidelines but that teacher inspired many people.
PO: Ms. Blake did an awesome job in teaching her class the different vegetables that Jamie had brought into her class. She took a few minutes of the instructional day to teach the importance of vegetables and the importance they play in living a healthier life. You are correct about nutrition being cut as a part of the curriculum due to the emphasis place on academic achievement. However, Central City Elementary has a plan for next year to implement this component of nutrition back into our curriculum for the next school year.

CCC: Were most of the teachers and staff of Central City on board with the Food Revolution? I realize the cooks were rightfully so not always thrilled with an increase in work but what about the rest of the staff?
PO: I had a few staff members who thought we would be portrayed in a negative manner and was not thrilled the production crew was in our school. And of course, you know as well as I do that change is difficult and they had concerns about the impact this change would have on our students. One big issue was the flavored milk because many of our teachers had said some calcium is better than none at all. That is a valid point, but our students were adapting to drinking white milk when the flavored milk was allowed back.

CCC: On the last episode we saw that you had lost quite a bit of weight since you were no longer eating the processed foods on a daily basis. How have your health and the general health of your school changed?
PO: I was able to benefit from the food revolution because I had decided to make a change for myself. I have taken the base sauce we use at school (includes five different vegetables) and introduced it to my meals at home. I have also made the change in how I was eating. I have learned from the show that you control your health and you must decide on your own the benefits you want out of a healthier lifestyle. As for the school, only time will tell. I cannot control what our students eat. I cannot tell them to eat. I cannot force them to eat. However, I can share my story of how I have taken our school menu home with me and incorporated those meals in my diet at home. I can share with them how it has made me feel overall with the changes that I have made in eating healthier. I only hope we continue to serve meals that are made from natural ingredients, and we completely do away with all processed foods.

CCC: Does your school have recess and daily gym/PE classes?
PO: We do have daily recess when weather permits which is an important component in our school day. As for physical education, our students have PE every third day which I totally disagree with. Students should have PE every day, but once again, that is a money issue. The reason why childhood obesity has increased over the years is because children are not physically active.

Well the CCC would like to thank Patrick for taking time out of his busy day to speak to us. He has shown us that one person can make a decision to help and do great things. During the show, Patrick was accommodating and concerned for his kid’s health. It is great to see a person step forward and do the things they can to make a change.

What is being served in your schools? What is being served in your home? Will you stand up for the health of your kids and their friends? We realize that processed food is quick and easy and that many people have come to rely on that to get a “meal” on the table but is calling it a “meal” entirely accurate? I work full time and have a three year old at home but I try to cook a real meal for us as often as I can. I will not lie to you and tell you that I never go through a drive thru to pick up dinner but I have cut back severely on that. I am making changes in our home, what are you doing in your homes and schools?

As a special give away this week Taste of Home’s Healthy Cooking Magazine has graciously offered to donate a one year subscription valued at $23.94 to one winner. The same rules apply. You can register up to 6 separate times following the rules below.

1. Leave a comment on this blog posting telling us your favorite outdoor activity with kids.
2. Become a follower of our blog.
3. Become a fan of KIDS MATTER on Facebook and post it on the blog.
4. Become a fan of Child Care Council of Kentucky on Facebook and post it on the blog.
5. Follow us on Twitterand post it on the blog.
6. Blog about the interview on your blog, linking back to us.

Thanks and the registration for the giveaway will end on Wednesday May 19th.


  1. I wish Jamie Oliver would have come to Kentucky. My 17 year old son eats the same lunch every day...chicken patty. I love taking my younger kids to Farmer's Market. They are already better eaters than I was at their age.

  2. My 17 year old eats the same lunch every day, chicken patty. I hope my younger ones are better eaters. They are already better eaters than I was at their age. I wish Jamie Oliver would have come to Kentucky.

  3. I commend Patrick & Jamie for there work. Google "Grown in Detroit " for another great movement towards healthier choices, this in inner city Detroit w/ teen mothers. It's going to take a lot of people to help make this change. I think the new studies linking pesticides on fruits to things like ADHD will get a lot more peoples attention. Food Inc. is another disturbingly good documentary about our food system. Later -Fitz-

  4. I followed that show all season. That was an interesting follow up.
    I'm enjoying working in the garden with my kids. We get to look at bugs and worms, and hopefully this get them excited about eating something they helped grow.

  5. Maybe the CCC should offer a "healthy cooking class" for the people in centers who are responsible for preparing menus and food for the kids. The class could mirror the information from the TV show.

  6. I think the healthy cooking class is a great idea. This should actually be a class that is open to anyone who has a child or takes care of children. Many caregivers often feed their kids the same "unhealthy" foods on a day to day basis. Maybe some new ideas of healthy and yummy items would give caregivers options and kids some variety. - Beth S.

  7. Glad to see the overall result was positive a good role model for other districts to follow thanks for the information.