School bells are ringing, and children will be doing more than singing. They will be acting up, hyperactive, impulsive, irritable, distracted, and antisocial. They’ll have difficulty with memory, writing and many other anti-learning characteristics.
Why? Not because of one-parent homes, poverty, poor housing, or any other negative social condition. These negative behavior traits are mainly due to poor nutrition. In other words, the brain needs adequate brain food.
Where is that old-fashioned breakfast of juice, milk, hot cereal, whole-wheat toast and eggs? And please don’t forget cod liver oil. This was my breakfast when I went to school. Was it yours? Healthy lunches were provided by the parent, not by food giants that have no idea how to satisfy the nutritional needs of children.
Children’s meals today have been replaced with cupcakes, potato chips, pork skins, popcorn and artificial drinks loaded with additives that cause negative behavior. Here’s some food for thought: “A Major Study on Nutrition and Learning,” conducted in the spring of 1979, found that NYC public schools ranked in the 39th percentile nationally on standardized California Achievement Test scores. In the fall of that year, the NYC Board of Education ordered a reduction in the sugar content of foods served in the school food programs and banned two synthetic food colorings. In the spring of 1980, the city’s achievement test scores soared to the 47th percentile.
The following school year, the schools banned all synthetic colorings and flavorings. Again, the test scores increased, bringing the NYC schools up to the 55st percentile. Thus, over a four-year period, with the only change being an improvement in diet, scores in 803 public schools showed a mean academic percentile increase of 15.7 percent.
It is up to parents and administrators to help change children’s diets, from those that prevent their little brains from operating fully to the kind that will help them reach their full potential.
Years ago, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatrician, developed written material to generate public awareness of the effect that certain foods, synthetic additives, and chemicals can have on children’s behavior and learning problems. If you are interested in improving your child’s diet, I advise you to write to the Feingold Association of the United States (FAUS), P.O. Box 6058, Williamsburg, Virginia 22188, or call 703-768-FAUS, or visit their web site at

Garry Pierre-Pierre is a Pulitzer-prize winning, multimedia and entrepreneurial journalist. In 1999, he left the New York Times to launch the Haitian Times, a New York-based English-language publication serving the Haitian Diaspora. He is also the co-founder of the City University Graduate School of Journalism‘s Center for Community and Ethnic Media and a senior producer at CUNY TV.

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