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DoctorYourself.com interviews a pioneer in school meal reform
This is bigger than you might think: there are 100 schools in the Seattle district. Not only that, the entire State of Washington is following suit. Fantastic!

Among those we can thank for this initiative is Alexander Schauss. Alexander G. Schauss, PhD. has held a number of academic appointments, and has been a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Alternative Medicine Advisory Council and the Developmental Planning Committee of the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Dr. Schauss is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (FACN). He is author or co-author of more than 100 papers or works, and served as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Biosocial and Medical Research for 13 years.

Schauss has appeared on television shows including Phil Donohue, Maury Povich, and Oprah Winfrey. I heard Dr. Schauss speak at the Nutritional Medicine Today conference in Vancouver earlier this year. I think you might like to hear what he has to say about how your kids' school lunches relate to their behavior and academic performance.

Dr. Andrew Saul Interviews Alexander Schauss, Ph.D. (www.aibmr.com)
DOCTOR YOURSELF NEWS: Dr. Schauss, how did all this good nutrition news come about?
DR. SCHAUSS: The impetus for the effort in Seattle and the state of Washington was laid down 20 years ago following the largest nutrition study ever conducted in the world. It involved 800,000 students at all grade levels in 803 schools representing every demographic profile.
The study started the year after I published Orthomolecular Treatment of Criminal Offenders. This work was read by the head nutritionist for the New York City public school system. My advice was to significantly increase the nutritional density and fiber levels of the breakfast and lunch meals served to students under the national school lunch program. I placed particular emphasis on the need to significantly lower or eliminate "empty nutrient" foods, such as sugar, unfortified wheat flour, sodas, and most desserts. To my surprise, the NYC schools agreed with my recommendations.

DY NEWS: How bad were the foods in the NYC schools?
SCHAUSS: An article in the New York Times described NYC public school's meals as some of the most tasteless and unappealing in the country, combined with well below average national academic standardized test scores; this despite some of the highest teacher salaries in the country, numerous advanced degrees among its teaching staff, and a teacher to student ratio of 1:17, in addition to students living in one of the most culturally enriched environments in the world.

DY NEWS: What was the science behind the better-food, better-grades concept?
SCHAUSS: The effects of the dietary changes were evaluated by California State University. The university sent a team of researchers and data monitors to NYC for four years, as sequential changes in diet were instituted. Basically, an interrupted time series design was employed. When the study ended in 1983, it took the researchers nearly one and a half years to analyze the data. Finally, in 1986, they presented their findings in a featured presentation at the annual meeting of the American College of Nutrition. According to the CSU, the diet changes instituted caused the largest gain in academic standardized test performance in US education history. This is particularly significant for a large school district.
Even the testing services began wondering how a school district of such heterogeneity of students could in one year, for example, gain 8 percentage points, when the expectancy was no larger than a gain of 2%. The results were published the following year in the International Journal of Biosocial and Medical Research.

DY NEWS: What was the response from government?
SCHAUSS: A hearing was held in the US Senate. Senator Jessie Helms, originally a strong critic of NYC's efforts, ended the hearing commending the school system, pointing out that the USDA administered school lunch program was originally established by Congress after WW II to insure that children and adolescents would not suffer the degree of malnutrition and its after effects experienced in the 1930's during the depression resulting in the loss of millions of potential soldiers for the war effort during WW II. Few people knew that the school lunch program was started by the Defense Department, not the USDA.

DY NEWS: When did the public begin to hear of the NYC study?
SCHAUSS: In 1987, Barbara Friedlander and Arnold Meyer and I collaborated in writing a book on the NYC study. Barbara was the Chief Nutritionist for the NYC public school system, and Arnold was the information officer for the system. The book was published by Simon & Schuster in 1991 (Schauss, AG, Friedlander, B and Meyer, A. Eating For A's). It received considerable positive national press and media attention. Within just a few months it sold out. It was never re-published. Eventually I received back the rights to the book. It was re-released in 2004 as Feed My Brain, without any revisions. http://www.feedmybrain.com/book/index.html
Feed My Brain describes which nutrients were responsible for the significant gains in academic performance, along with a discussion on the effects of nutrients on athletic performance. There are several chapters showing parents how they can systematically introduce the same changes in diet at home, via a 12-week diet modification program.

DY NEWS: Certainly you must have run into objections to such sweeping nutritional change. From whom did your opposition come?
SCHAUSS: Many dieticians and school food service directors claimed that students were already receiving a "balanced diet" and there was no need to reduce sugar, sodas, etc. I even recall a professor of dietetics stating on television that there was nothing wrong with a child eating a popular breakfast cereal that was nearly 60% refined sugar. Seeing that both academics, often with connections to the food industry, and dieticians in particular, created road blocks to improving the diet, the effort was reorganized by several parents into a determined grass roots movement.
I should also mention that other pioneers should be given credit for demonstrating the benefits of a highly nutritious, nutrient dense school meal program. Helix High School, near San Diego, some 35 years ago established a salad bar and offered no sodas or sugar-foods in its cafeterias. It had the state of California's highest academic standing and top athletic teams for a decade while this program operated, until the food service director retired.
Similarly, Fulton County, Georgia, under the leadership of Sara Sloan, did the same thing 30 years ago, with similar results. All I did was meet these pioneers, study their approach, examine whether the scientific literature supported their approach, and advocate replication of their meal programs in other school districts.

DY NEWS: How does it feel to have backed the right horse, nutritionally speaking? SCHAUSS: In just the first two days after the Seattle Schools' announcement, I have had emails of congratulations from all over the world. It took years, but note that not only has Seattle taken the initiative: more importantly, the state of Washington is doing the same in every school district in the state. Recently, France instituted similar efforts in the entire country! It will be interesting to see if what started in Washington state will be adopted by school districts and states in the USA.

DY NEWS: Some final thoughts?
SCHAUSS: In my opinion, given the rising rates of diabetes (Type II), heart disease, obesity, etc., it is high time we begin early in assuring ourselves that our children get the healthiest, not most profitable, foods. They are our future and they deserve to have schools and parents committed to insuring that they have a future as healthy adults.

For further reading:
Schauss, A.G. "Recommended Optimum Nutrient Intakes" (RONIs). In: Textbook of Natural Medicine. Second Edition. Pizzorno, J.E. and Murray, M.T. [Eds.] Churchill Livingstone: London, 1999, pp. 909-938. (Over 800 references.)
Schauss, A.G. Minerals, Trace Elements and Human Health. Life Sciences Press, Tacoma, Washington, 1995. (Translated editions in Dutch (1995), Chinese (Mandarin) (1996), and Indonesian (Bahasa) (1996).
Schauss, A.G. "The myth of learning disabilities and juvenile delinquency." [Letter] Correctional Psychologist, 1991; 23(3).
Schauss, A.G., Meyer, B. F. and Meyer, A. Eating for A's. Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster: New York, 1991, 277 pages.
Schauss, A.G. "The effects of nutrition on brain function, behavior, and learning: Directions for integrative research." International Journal of Neurology, 1989; 23: 111-115.
Schauss, A.G., "Nutrition, academic achievement and behaviour disorders: Applying the research to schools." Health in Schools, 1988; 3(6): 182-186.
Schauss, A.G. "New York City public schools' nutrition study." [Editorial] International Journal of Biosocial Research, 1986; 8(2): 101-103.
Schauss, A.G. Nutrition and Behavior. Keats Publishing: New Canaan, CT, 1985.
Schauss, A.G. "Nutrition and social behavior." In: 1984 Yearbook of Nutritional Medicine, Bland, J. (ed.) Keats Publishing: New Canaan, CT, 1985, pp. 71-92.
Schauss, A.G., Sommars, E., Gilles, B.L. and Husmann, R.L. "Nutrition in the schools: A survey of North American schools." International Journal of Biosocial Research, 1984; 6(1): 78-88.
Schauss, A.G. "Nutrition and behavior." Journal of Applied Nutrition, 1983; 35(1):30-43.
Schauss, A.G. "Nutrition and antisocial behavior: current research and review." International Clinical Nutrition Reviews, 1984; 4(4): 172-179.
Schauss, A.G. "Nutrition and behavior: Limitations and implications for criminology." Proc. 112th Congress of the American Correctional Association, Toronto. Tucker, J.N. and Dargis, A.J. (Eds.) American Correctional Association (College Park, Maryland), 1983, pp. 55-64.
Schauss, A.G. "Effects of environmental and nutritional factors on potential and actual batterers." In: Roy, M. (ed.) The Abusive Partner: An Analysis of Domestic Battering. Van Nostrand Reinhold (New York), 1982, pp. 76-91.
Schauss, A.G. "Nutrition and violence." Proceedings of the 5th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. HEW (Washington, D.C.), 1982, pp. 244-250.
Having personally taught inside two NY State prisons (one medium, one max), Dr. Saul Andrew Saul offers some of my own thoughts on improving inmate nutrition at http://www.doctoryourself.com/prison.html


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