What inspired you to rid U.K. schools of chips, soda, and candy?
That was actually just part of the campaign. There was a lot more to it -- making sure that catering staff could get training, that each school actually had a kitchen, because many didn't, and essentially ensuring that kids were getting a hot, nutritious meal every school day, 190 days of the year. In a lot of places we visited, we had kids eating fries for lunch and then fries when they got home every single day, and that wasn't good!
You proved then that nutritious and delicious fare could be produced for roughly the same amount of money the government was spending on less substantial -- and even unhealthy -- lunchroom options, such as potato chips. Are your plans still in action, and can schools really meet their budgets and still serve healthy meals?
I always said this would be a 10-year plan. ... Some of the things that were promised have been done, and some haven't. But I think things are slowly moving in the right direction. Many individual schools are making great progress.
Studies have shown that the poorest economically often eat the poorest nutritionally. If junk food is cheap and vegetables are pricey, how can we turn the tide on the obesity epidemic?
I don't really fall for that argument. I've spent time in Italy and seen the poorest of people eating the most delicious -- but really inexpensive -- food because they know how to use ingredients. I've been to South Africa and seen women in shantytowns preparing meals for school kids that cost a few cents but had huge nutritional value. How much are a few vegetables? How much is a bag of dried [whole-wheat] pasta? I could easily feed a family of four for under $10 -- which is less than any junk food.
You're the father of two daughters, so you know how tricky it can be with kids and vegetables. How do you inspire healthy eating for the youngest children?
I'm lucky because the kids have always eaten well -- they got used to trying loads of new things when they were younger, so they got a taste for different flavors and textures. It's harder as kids get older, but if you persevere and don't get upset if they won't try new things the first time, eventually most kids will get into new tastes.