How Jamie Oliver schools us all with positive propaganda

 He [is] charming and passionate and every bit the boyishly handsome devil you’ve come to know and love/hate. – Gendy Alimurung, LA Weekly 

He’s the hero we didn’t deserve but one we desperately needed. Over the years, Jamie Oliver has become an unlikely face of public health advocacy in the war against childhood obesity. From documentaries that shocked the world to setting up The Good Food Foundation, and eventually convincing the British government to implement a sugar tax on sweetened beverages. Who would have thought the Naked Chef could change the more than just the way we cooked?

Of course, if you haven’t heard or seen his work (you might be living under a rock), so I’ve conveniently provided the juiciest snippets below:

In an interview by LA Weekly, Oliver revealed why his propaganda made a big impact on a big  issue:

As far as I’m concerned, we just made an incredible documentary with big stunts. Why do we do big stunts? Because a lot of the information we work with is bloody boring. And I don’t expect any public, let alone the Americans, to be remotely interested.

No doubt that “Jamie’s Food Revolution” was a defining moment in his career setting the tone for his future campaigns.


By now you can probably guess I’m a massive fan of Mr Oliver, but for the record, it’s with good reason. I hold a great respect for the man who’s dedicated his life to tirelessly campaigning for the health of generations and generations hereafter.

As a nutrition student, I know exactly why nutrition education is important but how little society is taught. More than that, having volunteered at The Ministry of Food I have seen first-hand how effective simple food education can be at truly changing lives. Convincing people to change their eating habits alone is not easy, it’s personal. Heck, I have enough trouble trying to convince my diabetic dad not to eat ice cream. I can’t imagine what Jamie has to deal with in his day to day life.  Yet, he does it all in the public eye knowing full well he’d be made a spectacle in the media (cue the haters).



His approach, although necessarily extravagant, has never made him an expert on nutrition (until recently attaining a degree) so many have questioned how he became the most influential figure in the obesity debate. The secret, as I’ve discovered, is his rhetorical appeal.

WAIT, WAIT, His what?? You ask. Hold on to your seat kids, here’s where it gets a bit technical. Rhetorical appeal as the great Aristotle put: it is the persuasive ability of an individual underpinned by ethos, pathos, and logos:


From humble beginnings, Oliver has presented himself as driven, passionate, and down-to-earth, and people can see it. He is what you would call a disruptor, taking the grassroots approach to fight for what he believes in. He never claimed to know everything but delivered messages in a way that we could relate to. What’s more, his determination to know the truth pushed him to attain a degree in Food Nutrition despite difficulties with dyslexia. It almost seems ironic that the boy who “literally had the worst experience at school” now schools us all.


What good publicity has allowed was to bring light to the situation and show people the magnitude of the situation and the simple solution – education. His impact in the media can be linked to the Elaboration-Likelihood Model. Put it simply, it explains the process of you and me forming an opinion about the arguments Oliver presents. If the argument is convincing, the audience will be motivated to think about the issue and therefore scrutinise their beliefs i.e. high level of elaboration. Conversely, if the argument less convincing the audience does not go further with scrutiny, i.e. low level of elaboration. Just think about all the people he’s convinced over the last decade from lunch ladies to children and shaping public health policies. As it happens, Oliver’s come back to fight for Australia with his own version of “positive propaganda”


In a recent trip down under, Oliver was reportedly on a new crusade to promote his Learn your Fruit and Veg Program into the primary school curriculum, but he’s not here to force feed vegetables:

There is no better way to teach maths, history, geography and science than through growing or cooking.


It’s already changed the landscape of education in the UK since 2012 and is currently being trailed at Solway Primary School in Ashburton, Melbourne. It says a lot about our government’s value on healthcare if it has taken this long to convince them for food education in schools. Hats off to Mr Oliver. He’s planted the seed of knowledge, now all we have to do is nurture it.




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