The first episode of Jamie's 4-part series Jamie's School Dinners was broadcast on 23 February. Jamie signed up as a dinner lady at Kidbrooke School, Greenwich, to revitalise the comprehensive's meals on a budget of just 37p per child. Using culinary magic and legendary passion (plus the help of feisty Nora and her crack troupe of dinner ladies) Jamie battled, negotiated, penny-pinched, cooked, chopped and peeled his way through his toughest challenge yet.
It was very hard work. Nora and Jamie were head to head. The kids cried. Parents slipped burgers to their children through the school gates. But by the end of the show, Jamie had won over the council, the caterers and the kids. He proved that it was possible to switch from a junk food menu and provide nutritious meals like Hot & Kickin chicken and Sweet Potato and Lentil Korma - and all within the budgeted 37p.
But what was really needed was more money from the government.
The Feed Me Better campaign was launched with the website as a magnet for anyone wanting to support the campaign. The plan was to gather 10,000 signatures to present to Number Ten. But things soon got out of control...
After a week, we had 25,000 signatures. Then 70,000. Then 100,000. The computers hosting the website were melting. Our petition thermometer broke - and broke again. Over 200 people were signing per minute. Thousands of visitors turned to millions. Over 5 million people visited the site while the TV show was on air. Parents, teachers and dinner ladies swarmed our forums with stories and suggestions on how to make a difference.
Suddenly, up and down the country, parents and children were sharing Jamie's disgust at the state of kids' school dinners.
The headlines in the papers were deafening. Jamie was on the front pages of all the papers: The Guardian, the London Evening Standard, The Daily Mail. And On Radio 4. On Parkinson. Celebs Kenzie, McFly, Ellen McArthur and Chelsea's Frank Lampard all weighed in to support the campaign.
Even newspapers from the US and weighty medical journals like The Lancet were backing the campaign. "Jamie Oliver has done more for the public health of our children than a corduroy army of health promotion workers or a £100m Saatchi & Saatchi campaign," the Lancet said.
Jamie wrote his Feed Me Better "white paper" listing the top five things which The Government needed to change and put it on the website. The department for education responded with its first tentative statement in February. They promised an independent school food trust guaranteeing tougher, minimum standards for school meals. But all the while remaining uncommitted on what was most needed: hard cash.
Not enough, said Jamie. Parents, headmasters and newspapers agreed. Throughout March, as Jamie's struggle on TV captivated the nation, pressure mounted on the government from all sides. 116 MPs signed a cross-party motion backing FMB. The website petition hit 200,000.
Four days after the broadcast of the last episode, and just over a month after the campaign launched, Jamie delivered his petition of 271,677 signatures to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street. It was one of the biggest ever web-petitions. All these people had signed up their support for Jamie's motion to ban the junk and get healthy food back on the menu. Tony Blair thanked Jamie for his "remarkable work" and announced that the government would take immediate action over school meals.
School kitchens would be rebuilt, dinner ladies trained, parents would become involved, all overseen by an independent School Food Trust. All this would be supported with a pledge to spend £280 million was pledged to raise the average cost per child per meal from 37p to 50p for primary schools and 60p for secondary schools across the country.
This fantastic result was thanks to all of you: the parents, teachers, dinner ladies, and kids who supported the Feed Me Better campaign. We got a huge result. Without you guys it would not have been possible.
Since the program, Greenwich has been rolling out Jamie's menus to all its 56 schools in the borough. The Mayor of London has bought a Feed Me Better starter pack for every school in London. Other schools up and down the country are making changes too. Of course, this is just the beginning. You can still help and work for change in your local area. The new Feed Me Better schools packs are now available to help you change things in your school. They contain help, advice, info, and recipes.What can you do now?