He has been ridiculed by the chat show host David Letterman, accused of high-handedness by a local radio DJ and reduced to tears by recalcitrant fast food-consumers during his war on American obesity. He has even dressed up as a giant pea pod in an attempt to turn the US on to his healthy eating agenda.
So Jamie Oliver will doubtless be relieved to hear of a timely reminder of his more gilded reputation back home. Today an audience of prestigious economists was told that the healthier school dinners introduced by the celebrity chef had not only significantly improved pupils’ test results, but also cut the number of days they were off sick. The effects, researchers said, were comparable in magnitude to those seen after the introduction of the literacy hour in the 90s.
The proportion of 11-year-olds in Greenwich, south London, who did well in English and science rose after Oliver swept “turkey twizzlers” and chicken dinosaurs off canteen menus in favour of creamy coconut fish and Mexican bean wraps, according to a study of results in the south east London borough.
The number of “authorised absences” — which are generally due to illness – fell by 15% in the wake of his 2004 Feed Me Better campaign, brought into the nation’s sitting rooms via the Channel 4 series Jamie’s School Dinners.