Forget tougher punishments and hiring more police. The solution to crime and violence is on your plate. Here’s how healthy food can reduce aggressive behaviour.
At first glance there seems nothing special about the students at this high school in Appleton, Wisconsin. They appear calm, interact comfortably with one another, and are focused on their schoolwork. No apparent problems.
And yet a couple of years ago, there was a police officer patrolling the halls at this school for developmentally challenged students. Many of the students were troublemakers, there was a lot of fighting with teachers and some of the kids carried weapons. School counsellor Greg Bretthauer remembers that when he first came to Appleton Central Alternative High School back in 1997 for a job interview: “I found the students to be rude, obnoxious and ill-mannered.” He had no desire to work with them, and turned down the job.
Several years later, Bretthauer took the job after seeing that the atmosphere at the school had changed profoundly Today he describes the students as “calm and well-behaved” in a new video documentary, Impact of Fresh, Healthy Foods on Learning and Behavior. Fights and offensive behaviour are extremely rare and the police officer is no longer needed. What happened?
A glance through the halls at Appleton Central Alternative provides the answer. The vending machines have been replaced by water coolers. The lunchroom took hamburgers and French fries off the menu, making room for fresh vegetables and fruits, whole-grain bread and a salad bar.
Is that all? Yes, that’s all. Principal LuAnn Coenen is still surprised when she speaks of the “astonishing” changes at the school since she decided to drastically alter the offering of food and drinks eight years ago. “I don’t have the vandalism. I don’t have the litter. I don’t have the need for high security.”