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article imageArticle about Huntington, Jamie Oliver show angers locals Special

By KJ Mullins     Apr 5, 2010 in Food
Huntington - Jamie Oliver may not have been the first to promote Huntington as the least healthy city in the least healthy state. In fact, that was the Centres of Disease Control's call. But some city residents are not happy about it being broadcast constantly.
Some members of the town of Huntington, West Virginia are hopping mad that Jamie Oliver's latest campaign has targeted their town as being a one long stretch of fast-food joints.
After a report in the Daily Mail about the school cafeteria's reliance on french fries, those residents are even angrier, some even believing that Oliver should go back to the UK with his nutritional campaign.
Fawn Boyer of West Virginia believes that targeting a town where the average income is below the poverty line is hitting under the belt. She is the creator of the Facebook group I Bet This Fizzy Drink Can Get More Fans Than Jamie Oliver.
Boyer admits that there is a problem with fast food places in Huntington. Also, she says, poverty burdens many residents of the town. What she disagrees with is the article in the Daily Mail portraying her town as a bunch of hicks who don't care about their children.
"The article in the Daily Mail was very unrealistic. It feels like an attack on Huntington. If you research the CDC you find that the state of Mississippi has a higher obesity rating," Boyer said during a phone interview.
In a town where many of the state employees are making so little income that they qualify for welfare, it's unrealistic to expect people to be able to shop at the higher line supermarkets that offer organic foods, she says.
"The truth is for many fast food and a big can of Spagettios is the only way a family can afford to feed their family."
Boyer thinks Oliver's ideals are wonderful; after all he is for promoting better health and diet for children. She mused that it would be great if the schools could serve organic lunches to students but knows that with the funding that is in place for West Virginia's schools, that is a pipe dream.
Boyer also said that the city's YMCA is too expensive for most of the residents.
"The city should create gyms so that everyone would have a place to go to exercise."
In West Virgina there is talk in the government about a fat tax allowing insurance premiums to be higher for those who are overweight instead of funding for helping its citizens become healthier.
Boyer has not been to Huntington's Kitchen. She fears that Oliver's show will portray the town's people in a negative manner.
"It seems like the show is exploiting the town."
Still Boyer's beef isn't with Oliver, whose ideas she supports, but with creating a program that just may not be sustainable for the town. The overall message she agrees with is basic common sense but it shouldn't come at the cost of shaming one group of people.
"America is fat-the problem is wide spread." Boyer continued, "I love that the show is aimed at children. Adults already know better, that eating right is the smart thing to do. Children however need to be taught, we are responsible for them. It's not fair to allow children to become unhealthy. For that reason I am glad that the program exists. I just want people to be meaningful that the residents of Huntington aren't ignorant hicks. People in West Virginia love their children and want to do what is best by them."
Boyer believes that the government should set stronger controls on the portion sizes of fast food and make it easier for those living in poverty to be able to obtain healthy food choices.
In Huntington those choices are not easy to come by; the nearest farmer's market is in the town of Milton, 15 or so minutes away.
Boyer hopes that the program will not harm her town's reputation but instead use the town as a way to help children and that people can learn from Huntington.
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