After being locked out by one of the largest public school systems in the US, being all but ignored by an indifferent American public, dressing up as a giant tomato, and pumping a school bus full of sand in a desperate attempt for attention, food crusader Jamie Oliver was able to claim victory this week as the Los Angeles school board announced it will ban flavored milk.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted to eliminate chocolate and strawberry-flavored milk from schools as of July 1, following an often tumultuous campaign staged by Oliver in his ABC TV series, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.
For a chef who is a household name in the UK and who enjoys a worldwide reputation with his TV shows, cookbooks and boyish charm, Oliver faced an indifferent crowd in Los Angeles where celebrities are a dime a dozen. Public demonstrations drew small crowds of 20 and school board members took offense to Oliver's criticisms.
In the early days of filming a combative LA school board pulled the crew's permit to film in their schools, prompting Oliver to pull off publicity stunts that included filling a school bus with 57 tons of sand to demonstrate the amount of sugar LA kids consume from flavored milk in a week.
"This is the stuff I've got to do to get people's attention," he said.
But on Tuesday, board superintendent John Deasy made good on a promise he made to Oliver during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in April, in which he pledged to propose eliminating flavored milk in the Los Angeles school board - the second biggest school board in the US after New York with 680,000 students.
Not all board members were on side with the proposal. Two dissenters voted against the motion on the principle that it demonized milk and allowed a TV chef to dictate their operations. It was pointed out, for instance, that fruit juice has more sugar than flavored milk.
The board members also cited findings from the American Pediatrics Association and the American Heart Association that flavored milk is not excessively harmful to children.
A cup of chocolate milk served in the LA school board has 120 calories, and 20 grams of sugar. Strawberry milk has 130 calories and 26 grams of sugar.
Plain milk, meanwhile, clocks in at 90 calories and 12 grams of sugar.
Oliver points out that flavored milk has more sugar per ounce than a can of soda.
The LA school board joins schools in the District of Columbia, Boulder Valley, Colorado, and Berkeley California which have also eliminated flavored milk.
The British chef's efforts to "revolutionize" the kids' food consumption have also gained the support of A-list stars, thanks to the celebrity ties of Ryan Seacrest who produces the show. Big name celebrities like Heidi Klum, Diddy, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Gwyneth Paltrow, Randy Jackson and Ellen Degeneres give the show their stamp of approval and are photographed signing a national petition to feed schoolchildren better food.
Meanwhile, Oliver's crusade has grown across the US with representatives in all but two states. Their viral campaign is looking for activists in Delaware and Vermont to make the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution complete.
Last year, the show filmed in Huntington, West Virginia, known as the fattest city in the US. The premise of this year's show is based on Oliver's 2005 series School Dinners in the UK, which yielded a meeting with then Prime Minister Tony Blair and funding for the building of school kitchens and staff training.
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution airs Fridays on ABC.