The Appleton Central Alternative Charter High School Nutrition and Wellness Program experiment.

After having a discussion with a local head of a private school, I thought that I would discuss school food and an experiment that took place in Appleton,Wisconsin.

The W.K. Kellog Foundation funded an experiment in this charter school with the goal of assessing student behavior after changing the nutrition policy of the school and the food that was consumed.

From the study paper:

Appleton Central Alternative Charter High School (ACA) opened its doors in February of 1996 to give individualized attention to students struggling in the conventional school settings.

Despite this close attention, students' behavioral problems continued to be extremely problematic. In an attempt to improve student behavior and academic performance, ACA began offering physical education opportunities in the fall of 1997. At that time, ACA also teamed up with a local business, Natural Ovens Bakery, to offer the students a free, nutritious breakfast. The following year (the 1998-99 school year) Natural Ovens sponsored the installation of a full kitchen and dining service (offering both breakfast and lunch). Although originally committing to sponsor and co-manage ACA's dining service for three years, Natural Ovens extended their funding and management to five years. During this time ACA and Natural Ovens developed a nutrition and wellness program.

Results: Students did not balk at the dramatic changes in the food that was served. Students health complaints and disruptive behavior decreased substantially.

"According to Principal LuAnn Coenen, negative behaviors such as vandalism, drug and weapons
violations, dropout and expulsion rates, and suicide attempts are virtually nonexistent."

Every year during the first five years of the Nutrition and Wellness Program, from the 1998-'99 school year to the 2002-'03, ACA arranged a Junk Food Day. Instead of serving bagels and energy drinks, students and staff drank sugar sweetened soda and Kool-Aid and ate chips, brownies, cookies, Pop Tarts and candy bars. Staff said during the few experimental Junk Food Days they have hosted, students are "wired" and are unable to focus.

Through out the day they complain of stomachaches, headaches, and feeling tired. Dean of Students Greg Bretthauer said that attendance is low following Junk Food Day. After a day of sugar highs and lows, both students and staff have stated that they never want to do it again....

I encourage you to read this paper and draw your own conclusions. After years of studying nutrition and metabolics, I find it easy to believe the conclusions as they are drawn. In a whole child approach to wellness, one does not solely focus on the food or the exercise regimen. We need a comprehensive shift in wellness for our youth.

Every child deserves to eat whole foods that are nutritious and support the child's brain and immune system, thereby allowing them to stay in school in an alert, disease free and focused manner.

Daily exercise is critical to stamina, sleep and mood. Calming music, colors and lights can only augment a child's mood in the school. The research regarding this is strong.

You can make a difference in your child's school by presenting this type of data with an open mind to those in control of your child's environment. Always come with a desire to educate and not the rigid dogma of a zealot. If you disagree with a school's wellness philosophy, then be a part of the change that will make it better. Always compromise and move forward as a team. Baby steps often become leaps as the data unfolds and the results speak loudly.

Dr. M

Wisconsin Paper
Appleton School District
Appleton Wisconsin School Paper