Within our little circle of writers, editors, and freelancers, we at Food Safety News are often having a conversation about not getting distracted.   We want to focus like a laser on food safety.

We do not want food seducing our people and taking them down roads where they do not belong.  We don’t want to let food be hijacked for somebody’s narrow cause.  We want to stick to those pathogens that quickly put kids and the aged into ICU’s.

Or do we?  What about obesity?  Is that a food safety issue or is it just about behavior?

When I was a kid, it was rare to see a fat kid. We were all skinny kids.  We never stopped moving, and we always stayed outside as long as we could.  We also went as far away from home as our legs or our bicycles could take us, especially on those long hot days of summer.

At parochial school, of course I remember fish stick Fridays.  More popular school lunches included beans and franks and sloppy Joes.  Being we where at Catholic school, everybody ate everything put on our trays.  The children starving in Guatemala were never out of mind.

In the years since that time, something has obviously changed.  Fat kids might not yet be the norm, but they are everywhere.  Outside of specific activities, like soccer for example, children seem to be cut off from the outdoors.  They at least do not seem to have much if any of the ongoing, unsupervised, and continual exposure we seem to thrive on.

Epidemic obesity with tragic results is being experienced throughout the United States, but maybe nowhere more so than in Huntington, WV.   British Chef Jamie Oliver has launched his “Food Revolution,” a reality television show like no other, in the West Virginia city of about 300,000. 

Oliver decided to take his television show to Huntington after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta named Huntington as the fattest city in America.

Also known as “The Naked Chef” for his first television show on the BBC, when featured simple straight forward or “naked” recipes, the 35-year-old Oliver has already accomplished a lot.  He’s the author of 15 books and has starred in as many or more television shows.

He was only 28 when the Queen awarded him the Order of the British Empire, and his Fifteen Foundation trains disadvantaged youths to become chefs. 

Oliver stepped into the arena, however, when he decided to try and change school lunch programs in the United Kingdom.  The “Food Revolution” really continues that work in that much time in the episodes airing on ABC on Friday nights are about Oliver’s attempts to improve the Huntington school lunch program. 

I realize this is reality television, something I have religiously boycotted since the first “Survivor” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” both aired in 2000, but I think Oliver has something going on in Huntington.

At least when he shows things like the national school lunch program labeling french fries a vegetable, the funeral business offering swimming pool-size caskets for deceased fat people, and community leaders who are worried about the fat image being bad for recruiting businesses to town–people should sit up and take notice.

My public relations advice to Huntington would be to take advantage of this opportunity Oliver is providing.   Be the first city America to start turning around this obesity problem and businesses looking for a new location will notice where Huntington is going, not where it’s been.

One footnote this week:  Our writers, editors, and freelancers are meeting later this week in Las Vegas, the second time we’ve had such a gathering.   Feel free to suggest improvements we could make in Food Safety News, and we will consider them.