Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has more than 400,000 followers on Twitter, but only follows a fraction of them back. Vancouver mom Karen Humphrey is one of the chosen ones.
Inspired by his show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, in which Mr. Oliver sets up shop in Huntington, W.Va., with the goal of getting the town to change its eating habits, Ms. Humphrey sent him a tweet: "You should get the food bloggers on board with your food revolution!"
He surprised her with a reply: "How?"
So Ms. Humphrey, a working mother of a 14-year-old son, created Food Revolution Fridays: a digital extension of Mr. Oliver's mission that has won his approval.
Every Friday, Ms. Humphrey writes about a healthy meal she made for her family at cookienotes.blogspot.com. Dozens of others do the same, replacing sodium-rich pizza delivery with Mr. Oliver's broccoli salad and crunchy garlic chicken. She spoke with The Globe and Mail.
How did Jamie Oliver inspire you as a mom, in terms of what you prepare for your family?
When [my son]was small, I used to watch the Food Network Canada a lot. We would watch Jamie Oliver on The Naked Chef show. … This is when we were going through the time when I was waffling a bit with the processed food because I wanted [my son]to fit in.
[Mr. Oliver]did say something on TV that really kind of stuck with me. He said if we assume all kids will eat is French fries and chicken nuggets and Kraft Dinner, and that's all we give them, then that's all they'll eat. But if we give them really good quality food when they're young, they'll develop a taste for it. I started giving [my son]more things that we would eat and not just sticking with kids' food. Now he's this total foodie.
What kind of lunches do you prepare for your son?
Today, he has leftovers from dinner last night: fajita chicken salad. There's chicken and peppers and lettuce and cheese. I pack it all in there so he can put it together once he gets to school. There's fruit, he's got a homemade carrot oatmeal muffin, he's got juice.
Were you always preparing meals like that for him?
I found that when he was younger, if they did not have that brand of juice or that Fruit Roll-Up or Dunkaroos, the kids would be made fun of. I tried packing him sushi when he was younger and he came home and said, 'Mom! The kids made so much fun of me. Please don't do that again.' I would see it as a challenge for me to come up with something that he'd like better. Now that he's older, [he says] 'Mom, can you try to find a recipe for butter chicken? The school's serving it, but I want yours.'
What made you take that extra step to try to get something actively going with other food/parent bloggers?
I've seen what the mom bloggers can do on the Internet when they have a cause. I thought, well, it just takes one person to start something. I have a blog, I blog about food, so it was the perfect opportunity.
You're encouraging parents not just to prepare healthy meals for their kids, but to write blog entries about it, to tweet about it. What does that add to the experience?
For a lot of us, it's just a lot of community and a lot of fun encouraging each other to keep trying different recipes. Some are Jamie Oliver recipes and some are posts about losing weight and some are about feeding your kids. Some of us have kids who are teenagers or babies or even in college and it just adds a real sense of community. We all encourage each other.
Tell me about some of the things you've noticed other bloggers doing - changes you've seen them making in their own lives.
One of them I know, she was trying to lose weight and she was making changes not just for herself, but for her kids. I think in one post she mentioned that she was giving her child yogurt instead of ice cream. I didn't think that I would have an impact on anybody, so it was interesting to read that other people were trying it just because I had written about it.
In the morning, it's just this mad rush to get the family ready for work, ready for school. How do you convince parents to pack proper, healthy meals for their kids?
I would never want to be judgmental of someone because of what they pack. I think it's more giving people the ideas on how to do it without it taking a lot of time.
I've written tips about how you can do it without it causing you a lot of grief. If when you buy your groceries, if you prep your fruits and vegetables - if you're going to do that for the week you're cooking anyway - wash your fruit. It makes it a lot easier in the morning.
You had set out to do this for six weeks, for the duration of the TV show. What do you want people to do after Food Revolution wraps up?
You know, I don't know if I want to stop. Really, I'm enjoying it so much that I might just leave it on my blog for much longer than that. After this show ends, I'd love to still encourage people to pack healthy lunches for their kids.
I've absolutely seen a change in kids when they have a healthy lunch because I work for a school district. I've seen kids - their energy is so much better, they're calmer, they do better in school when they've had healthy food to eat.