Research shows that you really are what you eat. And that matters in the classroom.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” isn’t just a children’s rhyme — research shows that healthy food increases emotional well-being, physical health, and even cognitive ability. In fact, students at schools that contract healthier vendors perform better on state tests, and are 3.4 times more able to focus on their studies and retain information.
But while the value of a healthy diet may be obvious to most, it’s hard to achieve in many school settings, where high convenience and low cost are often the reigning priorities. It’s relatively labor intensive and costly to source, purchase, and prepare healthy food. But students pay a steep price when schools fail to provide healthy dining options. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that children who consumed highly processed food were more likely to be hyperactive than those who did not. Processed foods can also cause volatile mental and physical energy, fatigue, and poor concentration. These are things we know, but the effort and expense of providing healthy food (and healthy food that students actually want to eat) proves too daunting for most schools, despite that fact that students who eat junk for lunch are less likely to learn during fifth period than they are to fall asleep.
At Oliverian we have two amazing chefs: Ben Travis is our kitchen director and weekday chef, and Laurie Pzena is our weekend chef. Both have extensive restaurant experience and are advocates of whole, fresh, locally grown ingredients.
So they source the majority of our ingredients from local New Hampshire and Vermont farms, opting for fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, wild seafood, and locally (and humanely) raised meat. Ben and Laurie create meals that skew toward fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and fish, with a modest inclusion of red meat; these are choices that not only improve physical functioning, but can also reduce memory loss and improve brain function–two things every school should want! We also add salads on the side of every meal and encourage students to snack on fruit and yogurt throughout the day (they are available along with other healthy options throughout the day) instead of stuffing themselves at mealtimes. For students and faculty with dietary restrictions, we even offer gluten free, vegan, and paleo options!
“I enjoy working with young people to substantiate a fundamental law,” says Ben. “If we put good things into our bodies, we will get good things out of our bodies.”
And it’s not just the body that matters here. At Oliverian we know that a healthy body is essential for a healthy mind.