Food, Behavior and Academic Learning

By Dorothy N. Moore

A nutritional program taking place in a public school in Manitowoc, Wisconsin is demonstrating the truth that diet controls behavior. Authors of this program, Paul and Barbara Stitt, have brought together their experiences and advanced studies in nutrition to set up a practical plan which will reap benefits to students for many years to come. Barbara Reed Stitt, a former probation officer, discovered a strong link between food and actions, first by having some strange symptoms of her own and then finding a copy of Look Younger and Live Longer by Gaylord Hauser whose message for most ailments was: stop eating "dead foods." She immediately changed her lifestyle and in a matter of a few weeks felt like a different person. 

Interestingly, I remember as a child how my mother listened to Gaylord Hauser on the radio and bought some of his materials, using his counsel in feeding our family. What he meant by dead foods, were refined and processed foods, refined sugar, white flour, coffee and chocolate. Instead, he recommended lots of live foods-fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain breads, cereals, wheat germ, and herbal teas and water for drinking. I believe that he was the one who said, "The whiter your bread, the sooner you're dead." 

When Mrs. Stitt was a probation officer, her personal experience led her to notice the eating habits of the probationers who came through her office. She found that a large proportion of the people who were getting into trouble were junk food addicts, consuming 50-150 teaspoons of sugar daily. A booklet on Low Blood Sugar confirmed her suspicions, for it gave a list of symptoms common to her probationers: irritability, uncontrollable thoughts and emotions, a "short fuse," depression and suicidal tendencies, insomnia and phobias, violence and aggression. She used these as the basis of a questionnaire to her subjects and then put them on a diet. She was surprised at the results and even her probationers were happy about how they were doing. 

Ultimately, one of the judges sent many of his subjects to Mrs. Stitt with the requirement that they stay on her diet. The big push came with an article in the Wall Street Journal. She later pursued a PhD in Nutrition for which she wrote her thesis on the Biochemistry of Crime and dissertation on Healing the Delinquent Mind. 

The Stitts have a large wholesale and retail whole grain bread company called Natural Ovens. This is the fourth year they have sponsored the school project which they had proposed and underwritten for Appleton Central High School. It was really an alternative school, because the students had had problems in other schools, having been expelled, dropped out or otherwise been in trouble, and the administrators were glad for the Stitt's interest. They first presented their plan and the background for their theory to the School Board and Superintendent. Then with the cooperation of the teachers, they introduced the idea to the students, removing the candy and pop dispensers and replacing them with water coolers. Students were given fresh fruit, whole-grain bagels and an energy drink for their breakfast and fresh vegetables for their lunch. 

The effect on the students was almost instantaneous with a calmer, more peaceful atmosphere from the beginning, not even any shoving in the hall. Shortly the administrators were able to report zero dropouts, expulsions, drugs, weapons or suicides. The academic achievement also improved considerably. Administrators have now removed vending machines from all the schools in the district for 15,000 students.