- (Photo: AP / ABC, Holly Farrell)
Renowned British chef Jamie Oliver is in the United States to lead a "food revolution" and help Americans eat healthy.
And for Pastor Steve Willis, the celebrity chef's bold move is an answer to his prayers.
"I believe that God has you guys here right now," Willis tells Oliver in the first episode of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," which is set to premier Friday night on ABC. "This is what we've been praying for for a year. This is a major problem in our community and I just believe God is opening up doors to where we can see change."
Oliver kicked off his tour in Huntington, W. Va., which in 2008 was named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the most obese and unhealthy city in America. Nearly half of adults there are obese. Huntington is also one of the worst areas for childhood obesity.
First Baptist Church of Kenova was one of the chef's first stops as he sought support and inspiration amid a skeptical community. FBC's Willis and members of the church were enlisted to assist Oliver in bringing the food revolution to Huntington.
Even before the release of the statistics, Pastor Willis of FBC began noticing the vast health problems and started addressing the issue with his congregation. The CDC data only made the problem more real.
"Do you see it as a spiritual act of worship when you go for an exercise walk?" the pastor posed to his congregation at that time. "We don't think of worship that way but taking care of the gift that God gave us is an act of worship."
Determining what to put on one's dinner plate or whether to go out and exercise are spiritual decisions, he stressed.
"God resides in each and every one of us and when He resides in our soul, our soul is affected, is encapsulated by our bodies," Willis said. "In order to be able to love God with all of our strength we have to take care of our bodies.
"Honor God with your body."
Willis has pumped up his congregation to become agents of change in the community.
"If we're the worst in the world, we have to be the most passionate in the world," he said.
And Oliver is seeking all the help he can get.
The chef started a petition earlier this month and so far more than 55,000 people have added their signatures.
"The American Food Revolution needs to start now!" he urges. "I need to be able to show The President and industry how many of you out there really care about this issue."
The petition states: "I support Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. America's kids need better food at school and better health prospects. We need to keep cooking skills alive."
Oliver plans to take the petition to the White House after the reality TV series airs.