Can We Cut Crime by Changing Cafeteria Menus?

Pic: USMC (PD)

Pic: USMC (PD)

A thought provoking summary of some of the data surrounding food-induced behavior change, by Christina Pirello. In reading, it may be pertinent to consider the weighted influence of our misconstrued conceptual frameworks provoked by the word “diet” which, as Tony Wright claims, would be a word more accurately termed “highly advanced molecular engineering of the most complex and chemically sensitive thing we know”. But even that hardly does it any justice.

It’s a tragically comedic sign of the times to see everyone paying more care to their new [insert plastic piece of crap here] than the thing between their ears that’s involved in orchestrating their very perception and sense of self. Ironic that the basic engineering logic of build materials and fuel quality makes perfect sense when thinking about the functionality of our cars, but is a foreign concept to most people when applied to the brain. How much longer can our culture blindly go on assuming that what we build and fuel our neural system on is of no consequence to ourselves, our children, and future generations? The data is there but its hitting deaf ears. As with dementia patients, there is inevitably heavy psychological resistance to maintaining the accepted reality-tunnel.

Christina is a cook who has witnessed alarming changes first hand through her work at a prison:

I know; I know. It’s controversial. Some say crazy, but what if we could reduce crime and violence by simply changing cafeteria menus?  A high school in Appleton, Wisconsin tried an experiment under the enlightened guidance of their principal, LuAnn Coenen. She wanted to see if she could positively affect the fighting, weapons-carrying and general lack of focus and discipline in the school by changing the food the kids ate. Vending machines were replaced with water coolers; hamburgers and French fries were taken off the menu and replaced with fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grain breads and a salad bar. With the departure of junk food, she also saw the departure of vandalism, litter and the need for police patrolling her hallways. The students were calm, socially engaged and focused on their schoolwork. Problems were minimal. And all Ms. Coenen did was change the menu.

Read the rest at Christina Cooks.

 

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  • BuzzCoastin

    considering the examples, prison & school
    I’m not sure diet is the only variable in the mix

    • Damien Quinn

      No, but if it’s the only variable that changes then the result is suggestive. Prisons seem like a good study opertunity, given the prevalence of violent behavior and the relatively controlled environment.

      • BuzzCoastin

        right, change the lightbulbs
        get the same change of behavior
        plenty of studies show any change in environment
        changes behavior

        • Damien Quinn

          Interesting, it seems totally reasonable that changes in environment would have a positive effect on inmates psychologically.

          I’m not sure it’s entirely applicable in this case though, both sets of prisoners were given pills, some were placebo and some supplements. If the change in routine afforded by taking a set of pills daily accounted for the change in behaviour then you wouldn’t expect to see a difference between the two blind groups.

          Bearing in mind your point about environmental improvements, I expect improving the quality of the actual food in prisons would have a doubly positive effect, nutrients and better conditions, although how attractive this seems might depend on whether you’re looking to punish or rehabilitate.

          • BuzzCoastin

            I’m not suggesting a change in diet won’t help
            I’m suggesting it’s not the only variable
            and that changing any variable in school or prison or anywhere
            will produce a change in behavior

          • Yūgen

            But what does that have to do exactly with the studies at hand? One could say the same thing about virtually any study on behavior…but its pointless unless you can actually point out some other factors they didn’t consider that influenced the results in a significant way. If its highly controlled and blind, and no other factors can be found, then its completely besides the point, because when they changed a specific variable, they got a specific change- one that correlates very well with other studies of the same nature.

          • BuzzCoastin

            one study, 231 people
            is far from being definative

          • Yūgen

            There is countless studies showing how diet affects behavior, which support their conclusions.

          • BuzzCoastin

            I didn’t say diet wasn’t important
            I said it’s not the only variable
            in a complex context

          • Damien Quinn

            So is your point that human studies are worthless unless there a rigorous controls that effectively isolate the variable being studied?

          • BuzzCoastin

            studies are important ways to obtain info
            but one study of 231 people is not The Definative answer
            did this study resample it’s participats a year later?
            probably not
            by then the subjects would have reverted to “normal”

          • Damien Quinn

            If they returned to normal after the supplements were stopped wouldn’t that support the link?

          • BuzzCoastin

            this study sgrees with your belife system
            so you really dig it
            my point is (once again)
            no one study is definative
            no one variable is all pervading

          • Damien Quinn

            Eh….you assume too much, I was just talking because I thought it was interesting, I’m really not that invested.

            To address your (oft made) point directly, the fact that the headline to this story has a question mark at the end of it suggests that this isn’t being touted as definitive. So yeah, well said.

    • Yūgen

      Obviously not, but as Damien said, its a very controlled environment and diet was the factor that changed…can you elaborate?

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