Jamie Oliver Pushes UK Poor From ‘Chips and Cheese’ Diet

American chef Sarah Bogan also tries TV to urge healthy diet on food stamp budget
August 27, 2013 Updated: August 27, 2013

British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is urging Britain’s poor to reevaluate their spending—with characteristic flare, noting the massive TV he saw in a poverty-stricken home as the mother and children ate “chips and cheese out of styrofoam containers.”

He made the comments in an interview with the Radio Times, quoted by the Guardian, as he promoted his new series, “Jamie’s Money Saving Meals,” which premiered Monday.

“I’m not judgmental, but I’ve spent a lot of time in poor communities, and I find it quite hard to talk about modern-day poverty,” he said. “The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods.”

He said in Italy and Spain the poor eat much healthier, buying fresh produce. Oliver is trying to motivate change, but it may come in small steps. In North Carolina, United States, chef Sarah Bogan found she was able to motivate a family to make small changes with her show “Surviving on Stamps.”

The News Observer told her story in an August 12 report. Bogan lived on a food stamp allowance for a month to prove a healthy diet is possible with a low income. According to calculations from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Bogan would get about $200.

She succeeded, with about $25 to spare. She pitched the idea for a reality TV series to film producer David Schifter. The show hasn’t been picked up by a network yet, but Schifter remains hopeful and said he will get the footage out there through documentary or an online stream if need be.

The cast includes Chris and Candace Moore—two graduate students with health problems related to poor eating habits. Chris, 32, has high cholesterol and a fatty liver. Candace weighs 340 pounds and has diabetes.

Gary Bennett, director of the Duke Obesity Prevention Program, told the News Observer he supports Bogan’s educational efforts while recognizing that many SNAP beneficiaries may not have time to prepare meals the way Bogan did. He noted that they are often single parents working multiple jobs, and their time is limited.

Bogan told the Observer the Moores have cut back on soda and fried foods, and “They have made a few changes, such as eating breakfast, making eggs for breakfast, and eating more chicken for dinner.”

Bogan’s meal plan on her 30-day food stamp challenge is documented on her website.