Change the Lunch Menu, Reduce Crime


Junk food has always gotten a bad rap as one of the core culprits of America’s obesity epidemic – and rightly so. Chef Jamie Oliver recently shined a spotlight on the issue of fattening and unhealthy foods being served in school lunches with his show, Food Revolution. And now, a high school principal in Appleton, Wisconsin is blaming her students’ poor diets for crime and vandalism on campus, and claims that modifying the school’s nutrition standards resulted in changes in student behavior, concentration and energy levels, while ushering in a crime-free era. Is this simply a coincidence and more than we can swallow, or is the proof in the banished pudding?

Principal LuAnn Coenen asserts that once junk food was eradicated from the school menu, i.e: fruits and vegetables usurped hamburgers and fries, candy was banned from school grounds, soda pop laden vending machines were replaced with water coolers, (for an entire list of the board’s nutrition standards, click here), “students were calm, socially engaged, and focused on their schoolwork,” problems were minimal and police no longer needed to patrol the hallways.

Could a change of menu contribute to such a weighty outcome? It’s my belief that food is the body’s fuel, and whatever we put in it is how we will in turn operate, be it at a high level of performance, or sputtering down the highway of life, and there’s no doubt we’ve all witnessed in our children and in ourselves what a sugar or caffeine high, followed by an inevitable crash and burn can do to our body and our psyche.

It’s a fundamental fact that diet and nutrition supply the body with energy, and affect the brain’s processes, so what can it possibly hurt to enlist schools to change their menus with the hope of seeing their students attain better grades and a more even-keeled and overall peaceful environment? Processed junk food is so much less expensive and easily attainable, which is why we need case studies like this to pave the way for higher nutrition standards to infiltrate schools, in place of metal detectors and anti-bullying seminars.

Of course, there are many other contributing factors to school violence and disorderly conduct, but why not give ‘peas’ a chance to make a difference? The WELL Said blog takes another look into this simple menu change and ensuing positive effects. Blogger Christina asks: “Is there so little interest in dietary solutions because there is no money to be made by the pharmaceutical companies that tout their behavior-modifying drugs to our children? Could it be that once again special interests are blocking the path to the truth? Could it be that we should be looking to a high school in Wisconsin for the recipe (pun intended) to reduce violent behavior and create emotional well-being?”

All food for thought.

Image: ericnvntr