Image from Times Live
Much has been written about Jamie Oliver's failed attempt to make students (and parents) in Huntington, West Virginia eat healthier food. The great one was reduced to tears on a t.v. programme over the hostility he faced there.
Oliver is in the United States flogging his new show, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, in which he tries to introduce healthy menus into local schools. He first tried this in the UK in 2004 and the results of a serious research study are in: a better diet works wonders! In the school area studied, the number of 11 year olds getting higher marks in english and science rose after the healthy menu was introduced.
Image from npr
The comprehensive study, carried out by the Royal Economic Society, studied school figures in 88 schools, with 13,000 pupils, in Greenwich, south London. The students had been on the new diet for a year. The new meal plan in the schools featured iron-rich foods such as red meat, pulses and green vegetables, while processed foods such as Turkey Twizzlers and fish fingers were banned.
Researchers found that there was a decline of 15% in absenteeism, assuming that it was likely that children's health had improved so they were away less often. Less children were using inhalers for asthma as well.
They found that the students' test results improved by 4.5% in English and 6% in science over the period since the healthy eating menu was introduced.
The academics compared the results with nearby areas that did not have the healthy school menus and say that the improvements are due to the healthier diets which had been introduced as a result of his campaign.
One head teacher commented: "Because the children aren't being stuffed with additives, they're much less hyper in the afternoons now."
Image from the Telegraph
The curious and disappointing part of the study is that poorest pupils, who would receive free school lunches, did not seem to benefit. It was mainly children from more middle class homes who saw their test scores improve. They are examining this aspect now. One suggested answer is that the poorest children were getting the lowest test results and it was harder to boost those up than it is to boost middle test results. It was also suggested that middle class children were more adaptable to changes.
The old menu at the school included: burgers and chips, sausage rolls, fish fingers, drumstick-shaped turkey nuggets and chicken nuggets.
The new one: roast beef and all the trimmings, mushroom and lentil bake, mexican bean wrap, lamb and vegetable pie and creamy coconut fish.