Making nutrition mainstream – lessons from Jamie Oliver

The fight against the double burden of obesity and malnutrition hinges on a powerful message: millions of people have too much of the wrong food, while millions more have too little of the right food.

Through Jamie Oliver’s many campaigns, several key lessons have emerged on how to make a big problem a mainstream issue:

  1. The message needs to be broken down into a clear, simple, undeniable statement. Ultimately, it is every child’s human right to have access to good, fresh, healthy food, and this is something we can all understand and relate to. Putting the message across through emotionally inspiring content is vital. The foundation’s documentary “Jamie’s Sugar Rush,” for example, which investigated sugar’s contribution to global health problems, was thought to be instrumental in engaging the public and raising awareness about the relationship between sugar consumption and diet-related disease, and particularly how this relationship affects childhood obesity.
  2. Equally important is the need to create a movement that engages with people all over the world and provides a way for them to act. For example, the petition launched for the foundation’s annual day of action, Food Revolution Day, which called for food education for every child, received more than 1.6 million signatures from people across the world. It broke down a big problem into one easy-to-understand action, bringing individual voices together in one united, global movement.
  3. Setting an example, rather than waiting for governments to lead the way, is crucial to driving positive change. Following Jamie Oliver’s UK campaign against sugar, more restaurants and restaurant chains have been imposing their own sugary drinks taxes. Furthermore, through social media and on-the-ground engagement, the foundation urged people to share their real stories, join campaigns, and become activists for the cause. We have seen parents start their own school food revolutions off the back of the foundation’s work in schools in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as people setting up cooking clubs to teach kids about food as a result of Food Revolution Day. By engaging people and empowering them to act, the foundation has built an army of food revolution community members—more than 2,000 voluntary ambassadors in 114 countries from Brazil to India to Nigeria—and partner organizations.
  4. Finally, real action can work only when we all—individuals, parents, schools, businesses, organizations, and communities—come together to act and speak out. All of these measures have been designed to ultimately change the political calculations of key decision makers by raising public awareness and making specific issues so mainstream that they can no longer be ignored. We know that with clear and emotionally inspiring messaging and enough of us working together, we can create a movement for action that gets governments to listen. The foundation’s work on childhood obesity over the past year has led to a combined force of campaigning groups and organizations all clamoring for the government to implement a robust and groundbreaking child obesity strategy of its own. Together we need to make it easy for governments to do the right thing by providing solutions that they can use, adopt, and adapt.

The world needs political will, leadership, and action. As the Global Nutrition Report shows, some countries are already making great changes. This needs to continue, and we need others to step up and take stronger action. Now is the time to work together to demand a better, healthier, and happier life for future generations. Let’s make our voices really count.

This post was written by Jo Creed, Social Media and Food Policy Manager at the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. It first appeared in Panel 1.4 of the 2016 Global Nutrition Report.