Australians have known for a long time that we have a bit of a problem with food. As a population we’re not the healthiest eaters, which our national dish of meat pies with chips and beer is a pretty good indication of. But over the past five years, our little problem with food has grown into a big national issue.
A bit over 17 million Australians are overweight or obese, a figure that has more than doubled in the past ten years. If we continue to gain weight at the current levels, by 2020 we’re going to be a country where 80 per cent of adults and one third of all children are overweight or obese.
Obviously, this is going to lead to some epic issues if something isn’t done about it soon. Financially, there will be the enormous increase in healthcare costs as the Australian population succumbs to the inevitable health problems that come with being overweight. Then there’s the fact that on the basis of present trends we can predict that by the time they reach the age of 20, our kids will be the first generation with a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations, simply because of obesity.
So how is the government dealing with this problem? Well, judging by today’s announcement, by bringing in the culinary big gun himself – Jamie Oliver.
Jamie Oliver and Victorian Health Minister David Davis (who incidentally, has not let a ridiculous name stand in the way of his political career) announced today that Jamie’s Ministry of Food would be implemented to Victoria in an attempt to solve the state’s substantial obesity problem.
Jamie’s Ministry of Food is a community-focused program that teaches basic cooking skills and good nutrition to non-cooks, regardless of age, demographic or ethnicity, to improve their quality of life and health. It’s very much a grass-roots program that’s based on empowering people to think differently about food by equipping them with simple cooking skills and knowledge.
In the food guru’s own words: “The Ministry of Food is so simple in what it does: it’s about celebrating great food with guidance, love, care and attention. It’s for anyone over the age of 12, from any background and it really does change lives.”
Judging by the comments on today’s Ministry of Food announcement, opinion is split fifty-fifty amongst Victorians about whether this program is the right way to tackle the obesity problem. About half of the comments were applauding both Jamie and the government for attempting to provide a solution to this issue, and the other half were lambasting the government for getting a ‘foreign celebrity chef’ involved in our domestic health issues.
It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it all pans out, and if a community-based program really can change the way all Australians think about food.