LEARN logo


Because People Matter
D-Light Full Vitamin Saves Lives, Billions

Success Stories
Appleton Kids
Aptos Middle School
Aptos Middle School
Food Is Elementary
NPR on Junk Food
Profitable Vending
NY City Schools
Kraft Reducing Fat
Crime Times
Junk Food Wars
Food Fights Crime

General Nutrition Articles
Junk Food Junkies
Mayo Clinic
Obesity From School Lunch
When a Crop Becomes King
Food Pyramid
IQ & Crime
Stop School Killings

Omega-3 Articles
Letter to Students
A Key Nutrient
Texas Fish Oil
Flax Does So Much
Four 'Smart Fat' Steps
Foods and Ratios
BBC - Food & Reading
Miracle in Appleton
Update on Appleton
Higher IQ
Flax Power
Sardine Snacks
A Good Fat

Trans Fats Hurt Kids
Book on Trans Fats
Avoid Hydrogenated
Trans Fats on Food Labels
Politics of Fat

Soda Overview
Venice High School
No Sodas in Venice
Fighting the Fizz
Seattle & Arizona


Vitamin D Articles
D-Light Full Vitamin Saves Lives, Billions
Benefits of Vitamin D

Sickle Cell Articles

About Us


Fighting Fat Foods

The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin
Friday, May 28, 2004
Rob Zaleski

Sometimes LuAnn Coenen forgets that millions of Americans still refuse to believe that a fast food diet can be hazardous to one's health.

After all, it's been six years since Appleton Central Alternative High School - where Coenen is the principal - discarded its soda and junk food machines and contracted with Natural Ovens Bakery of Manitowoc to provide nutritional meals for its 120 students.

Pizza, burgers and fries are out. Fruits, vegetables and non-processed foods low in saturated fats and sugar are in.

And it's been over a year since Appleton Central found itself under siege by the national media after word seeped out about the shocking changes that have occurred since the at-risk school switched exclusively to healthy breakfasts and lunches: Grades and attendance shot up, the dropout rate plummeted and, most astounding of all, discipline problems virtually disappeared.

"I know some people are skeptical about this," Coenen told me in an interview last spring. "I really don't care. All I know is my life's 100 percent better since we did this. In fact, I wouldn't work in a school again that had soda and junk food machines. I absolutely would not."

Still, if fatty foods are ancient history at Appleton Central, Coenen was reminded last week that they're still a potential time bomb for a large number of Americans who continue to consume them on a regular basis. The reminder came in the form of a humorous yet powerful documentary - "Super Size Me" - by a young man named Morgan Spurlock. It opened to rave reviews in theaters across the country (including Westgate Cinemas in Madison).

Spurlock, as you may have heard, ate three meals a day at McDonald's for one month. And to the amazement of his doctors - who had predicted only minor consequences - he paid a rather, uh, hefty price. Not only did he gain 25 pounds, he experienced chest pains, temporarily damaged his liver and saw both his blood pressure and cholesterol soar.

Most alarming of all - at least to his girlfriend - his prowess under the sheets suddenly disappeared.

Coenen says she's delighted that Spurlock had the guts to make such a film. And judging from what she's read, she believes it could be the thing that finally gets Americans to face the harsh fact that a fast-food diet is not in their best interests.

"It certainly validates what we've been doing at Central," she gleefully noted when I contacted her Wednesday.

But that's not the only reason Coenen can't wait to see the film when it opens in Appleton tonight. She's anxious to see it because Appleton Central is prominently mentioned for recognizing the negative effects of high-fat foods as far back as 1997 and actually doing something about it.

Coenen says most of the credit belongs to Paul and Barbara Stitt, owners of Natural Ovens Bakery, for convincing school officials that they'd see a dramatic reduction in behavior problems if they offered only nutritional items.

Still, as elated as she is by the recognition, Coenen admits she's mystified why other schools haven't tried to emulate the Appleton Central model.

"I mean, a school is where learning begins, and it's more than academics," she says. "We can't teach kids about the food pyramid and then offer them soda and pizza and tacos - any more than you'd want to teach an AA class in a bar. Talk about an oxymoron."

So what effect, if any, will Spurlock's movie have on the food program in Madison schools, where pizza, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and doughnut holes are still offered on a fairly regular basis - especially in the middle schools?

Hard to say, says Frank Kelly, director of food services for the Madison school district, who's heard about "Super Size Me" but has yet to see it.

He points out, however, that the district is involved in two healthy food initiatives right now. One is the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch farm-to-school project that's being piloted in three elementary schools this year. The other is aimed at finding ways to improve the food choices available to middle schoolers during the course of an entire day.

Will there ever be a day when Madison schools offer only healthy fare?

Well, keep in mind, Kelly says, that "It's a lot different for an entire district to try to do it than for one small alternative school. But we'll probably get there at some point."

Thanks to Spurlock, maybe even sooner than he thinks.

http://www.madison.com/archives/read.php?ref=tct:2004:05:28:373985:METRO E-mail: rzaleski@madison.com


Lauren Ayers

James Curiel, PhD
Professor, Sociology

Don Glines
Educational Futures

Hasan Hanks

Jeanie Keltner, PhD
Editor, Because People Matter

Michael J. Kwiker, D.O.

William Mora, M.D.
Health Associates Medical Group

Susan Montoya

Cynthia Mulcaire

Carlina Nowrocki

Robert O’Brien, MA

Suiying Saechao
Member LEAF at Hiram Johnson HS

Charity Smith
President Youth Congress at Sac High