While the United Nations convenes for a two day high-level meeting to discuss ways to curb the death toll from non-communicable diseases a celebrity chef is asking the General Assembly to focus their attentions on one issue in particular: obesity.
In an open letter to the U.N.'s Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, celebrity chef, television personality and healthy food activist Jamie Oliver pleads with the group to recognize the global impact of the obesity epidemic and take concrete measures to educate the public about healthier cooking and eating.
Oliver writes, "In the few minutes that it takes you to read this letter, more than 25 of our fellow human beings will have died from obesity and diet-related diseases. That’s 2.8m people a year, according to the World Health Organisation, dying from one of the entirely preventable diseases which combined kill more people in the world than wars, terrorism, HIV and road accidents. This will take leadership and urgent action to solve."
He continues, "Secretary-General, I have seen young mothers feeding toddlers cola through a feeding bottle because they don’t understand good nutrition. I’ve shown simple fresh vegetables to teenage students in the United Kingdom and America and they can’t identify a cucumber or an aubergine or a pear. I don’t blame these people – they’ve simply never been given the information they need to make good food choices. If parents can’t cook, how can they feed themselves and their growing families? But there is a simple solution: education."
The letter, posted in full on Oliver's website, goes on to cite global statistics linking obesity to increased health risks and laying the blame, at least in part, on the prevalence of fast food consumption over home-cooked meals.
This is hardly Oliver's first foray into issues of nutrition and food politics. While he got his start on British television as the cheeky, cheery, Cockney-tinged "Naked Chef" in the late 1990s, his efforts in recent years have focused on school lunch advocacy in his native U.K. and the United States, as well as training disadvantaged youth in restaurant careers, and forming the Jamie Oliver Foundation to encourage greater understanding of food origins.
Oliver's efforts have met with mixed reaction from local and national authorities. His school lunch campaign in the U.K. lost its government backing and Huntington, West Virginia, the focus of his reality show "Food Revolution" saw third-party donated funds dry up after filming stopped and a second series of the show was banned from shooting in the Los Angeles school district.
Oliver, however, remains undeterred in his focus, writing, "I have a simple message for the New York summit: People embrace knowledge. When the delegates meet next week, I believe you need to think less like politicians and more like the mothers and fathers that many of you are."
The summit began in New York City on September 19th and will conclude today.
Read more on U.N. Week
He could stand to loose a few pounds himself....
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