Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You are what you eat

It isn’t just your body that suffers when you eat too much junk food, your mind is affected as well. Take school dinners. Children fed on a high sugar or fatty diets tend to be badly behaved and lacking in attention.

When I taught at Anfield, some of the food they served was atrocious. The excuse was that, items like pies, chips, sausage rolls, burgers etc were the only types of food that children would eat. If the canteen put on healthy food, the children would turn their noses up at it.

Then along came Jamie Oliver, well not actually to my school but the TV chef did lambaste the quality of food that was being served in schools. His comments sparked a seed change in what was being served. Out went the burgers and chips, sausage rolls, fish fingers, turkey drummers, chicken dinosaurs to be replaced by proper sausages and creamy mash, chicken and mushroom casserole and roast beef with roast potatoes and green beans.

I don’t suppose that anyone thought that the outcome of the exercise would be to push up educational standards but that is what happened. A two year study showed that scores in national curriculum tests rose in schools which adopted a healthier school meal regime. In fact, the research showed that the effect of giving children decent food was greater than the imposed hour of literacy each day.

Interestingly, the research found that the change in school meals affected pupils from favourable socio-economic backgrounds more that those from deprived areas. That is not surprising really because children from middle class backgrounds adjust better to changes in their diets. They are more used to having fresh vegetables and fruit as part of their daily diet.

I well remember many pupils at Anfield would go out at lunchtime and buy a uncut loaf, hollow out the centre and fill it with chips; that would then be their main meal for the day. When they were offered vegetables like cabbage, sprouts or broccoli, they would turn their noses up. For them vegetables were baked beans and possibly frozen peas.

My father used to say fish was good for the brain and he was probably right. It just wasn’t the cod served fried in a thick layer of batter that we had every Friday lunchtime along with chips, scraps and white bread and butter. With all that cholesterol laden food in my early years, is it any wonder the Wii tells me each day that I am OBESE!