Friday, 30 August 2013

An Army Marches


"I'm not judgmental, but I've spent a lot of time in poor communities, and I find it quite hard to talk about modern-day poverty. You might remember that scene in [a previous series] Ministry of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive fucking TV. It just didn't weigh up.

"The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods."

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She famously enraged Jamie Oliver by selling junk food to children through a school fence as he battled to ­improve menus.

As pictures showed ­“Sinner Lady” Julie Critchlow ­shovelling pies, ­burgers, chips and fizzy pop through the bars in defiance of the chef’s healthy school dinners campaign, she was called “the worst mum in Britain”.

Jamie himself branded her a “t**t” and a “big old ­scrubber” before they later met and made up.


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In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five "responsibility deal" networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.

The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises.Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal's sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

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'Meaning?'

Henry paused absently wiping gravy from his plate with his finger. 'Put it this way: did you know that over the next five years we were planning to scrap free school meals for more than half a million children?'

'Not calculated to be a very popular move, I would've thought.'

'Well there'll be an outcry, of course, but then it'll die down and something else will come along for people to get annoyed about. The important thing is that we save ourselves a lot of money, and meanwhile a whole generation of children from working-class or low-income families will be eating nothing but crisps and chocolate everyday. Which means in the end, that they'll grow up weaker and mentally slower.' Dorothy raised an eyebrow at this assertion. 'Oh, yes,' he assured her. 'A diet high in sugars leads to retarded brain growth. Our chaps have proved it'. He smiled. 'As every general knows, the secret of winning any war is to demoralize the enemy.'

The meal concluded with apple-quince bread pudding, smothered in a honey and ginger sauce. The apples, as usual were from Dorothy's own orchard. 

Jonathan Coe, What a Carve Up!