Viewpoint: New taxes or nutrition?

The same old charade was played out again this year. Our school district issued an appeal for more money and presented a parade of prominent residents to convince us we had to do this “for the CHILdren.”

How many times have we heard that claim; if we just throw more money at it, we can solve all the problems. Money has proven not to be the answer, but what is?

Perhaps we ought to turn our attention a little way up the road to Appleton, Wis. They seem to have something figured out up there. What’s more, they aren’t paying a fortune for it, and they’re getting results.

Up until 1997, the Appleton district had the same headaches as most other schools: kids carrying weapons, all kinds of discipline problems, dropouts, poor performance.

Then a private group called Natural Ovens came along. A newsletter called Pure Facts reported: “Grades are up, truancy is no longer a problem, arguments are rare, and teachers are able to spend their time teaching.”

What the heck did they do? Are there police officers every five feet in the hallways of the Central Alternative High School? Metal detectors? Holding cells?

Turns out, it was as simple as putting in a healthy lunch program. That’s right, lunch! The burgers, fries and burritos are out the window. Instead, there are salads, whole grain bread, meats prepared the old-fashioned way, fresh fruits and good-quality drinking water.

The vending machines filled with junk food and sugary drinks are gone too (Hey, we’ve got a great contract for the kids here with Coca-Cola). What has this got to do with improving the schools?

High school principal LuAnn Coenen points to the annual state reports she has been filing since the new lunch program began. The report has several categories, such as dropouts, students expelled, those using drugs, carrying weapons and suicides.

Coenen said since 1997, every one of those categories has totaled ZERO…every year. That is startling, to say the least.

One teacher commented: “I don’t have to deal with daily discipline issues. I don’t have disruptions in class or the difficulties with student behavior I experienced before we started the food program.”

A student declared: “Now that I can concentrate, I think it’s easier to get along with people.” Imagine! Healthier eating improves concentration, who’d a thunk it?

But wait a minute, you say. Won’t all this cost a ton of money to implement? Won’t tossing out the vending machines cut into school revenues?

Principal Coenen faced that argument and she says: “I can’t buy the argument that it’s too costly for schools to provide good nutrition for their students. I found that one cost will reduce another. I don’t have the vandalism. I don’t have the litter. I don’t have the need for high security.”

They’ve begun this program at a nearby middle school, and it’s catching on. Teacher Dennis Abram said: “I’ve taught here almost 30 years. I see the kids this year as calmer, easier to talk to. They just seem more rational. I had thought about retiring this year and basically I’ve decided to teach another year—I’m having too much fun!”

Heard any Rockford teachers say that lately? The newsletter that first reported this story—Pure Facts—is published by a non-profit group called the Feingold Association. A part of its purpose is to “generate public awareness of the potential role of foods and synthetic additives in behavior, learning and health problems. The (Feingold) program is based on a diet eliminating synthetic colors, synthetic flavors, and the preservatives BHA, BHT, and TBHQ.”

Dr. Feingold was around 30 years ago. His revolutionary work proved the links between these negative food factors and children’s lives. The medical cartel, however, quickly trashed his evidence because his work threatened the drugs-for-everything concept of modern healthcare.

But the work did not disappear. Feingold’s disciples have kept it alive. It is fortunate that they have.

Maybe we don’t need big tax increases, or an army of bureaucrats, or school shrinks or a police presence to relieve and perhaps solve these current headaches. Maybe the big corporations with their vending machines and junk food will get booted out of the school house. Maybe Ritalin will become an artifact of history.

Maybe all we need in the schools is some good eats. No one is holding that better diet will clear up all difficulties, but it can go a long way toward normalizing young minds and bodies, and putting the school behavioral industry under revision could cut deep into the ignorance and greed that’s choking our children’s progress.

Pure Facts—worth looking into and discussing. Ask your schools.

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