The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation's "Big Rig Teaching Kitchen" landed in Long Beach this week, and will remain here for nine weeks, teaching kids and adults life-changing cooking skills. The name value of the popular host of TV programs focusing on improving a school system or community's health, has attracted large attendance, organizers said.
Partnering with The California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities Initiative, which will spend $1 billion over a decade on targeted communities such Long Beach, the UK-born celebrity chef is fulfilling his TED Prize wish. He wanted to bring the Big Rig Teaching Kitchen "to fight obesity and promote better dietary health through food education and cooking skills." Long Beach is the rig's second stop after South L.A., and it will remain here for several weeks, then return at a different location in December.
The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation will help drive, literally, "a social movement for cultural change," according to the foundation's website, advocating for "better food choices... and developing educational programs to promote home cooking, in particular in schools and culnerable communities."
The "Big Rig" mobile teaching kitchen is a giant, 70-foot tractor-trailer designed to provide a 4:1 student-teacher ratio.
"It has the fun of Jamie OLiver inside," Ana Bonilla, project and media coordinator for Building Healthy Communities Long Beach, said Wednesday. "It's a magical place."
The truck even has a flatscreen T.V. in this state-of-the-art teaching facility, complete with 8 cooking stations, 6 ovens, 4 sinks, and a dishwasher, where up to 16 students can be cooking at any given time, using fun and interactive nutrition lessons focusing on fresh foods, rather than processed or fast.
Many remember Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution from television, where the Naked Chef revolutionized school lunch programs in many of America's underserved communities.
The Big Rig's big debut coincides with the release of a study by ReThinking Greater Long Beach, which drastically underscores a "serious picture of obesity rates among LBUSD youth."
Unfortunately, the study goes on to say that "the tendency toward obesity increased significantly in the direction of lower income groups," concluding the analysis of "student groups put them far in excess of allowable poundage."
Program Director for Long Beach at the California Endowment Jennifer Chheang believes this partnership is just "one of the ways... youth and young adults in Long Beach... learn about making healthy food choices."
"This date clearly shows that a lot needs to be done to address the issue of obese and overwight children, especially in certain parts of our city."
The mobile kitchen will offer a five-week curriculum that includes teaching portion size, the components of a balanced meal, and nutritional comparisons between healthy and unhealthy foods.
"It's not only teaching kids how to be safe in all aspects of cooking," says Program Manager Lisa Fontanesi, but also "how to take control of their eating and what they are doing."
With recipes tailored to teach to the USDA heath goals set out in the Dietary Guidelines of America, the classes are part of a long-term initiative to reduce childhood obesity rates in Long Beach.
Classes are free and open to people of all ages during the The Big Rig's nine-week stay. It will be parked at Long Beach City College's Pacific Coast Campus, 1305 E. Pacific Coast Highway and will move to another location in West Long Beach in a few weeks to finish out the nine-week stay. The classes are once a week and approximately 90 minutes long. The websites do not list a link to a registration site (that we could find) but the contact for registration is Jennifer Ponce, coordinator for the Long Beach Alliance for Food and Fitness, at (562) 933-0474.