Things I Know 100 of 365: Education’s silver bullet is in our stomachs

I spend a surprisingly large portion of my day with adolescents – by choice. Their bodies are all crazy, their brains are all crazy, and I’m supposed to teach them how to read, write, and think.

In an excellent dinner conversation tonight, we discussed the misguided belief of one of the world’s billionaires that education has a silver bullet.

“No silver bullet exists,” we said, as sure of ourselves as we could be.

I’m not so certain.


Food is the silver bullet in education.

Feed the students, and you can teach the students.

That is, feed the students beyond the scope of the federal school lunch program.

Feed them food, real food and you’ll see gains in focus, energy and thinking.

According to Michele Borboa writing for, the 2009 School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study found:

  • Only 50% offered fresh fruit
  • Only 39% offered green salad
  • Only 29% offered orange or dark green vegetables
  • Only 10% offered legumes
  • More than 95% of grain products were made from refined white flour
  • The most common entrées were peanut butter sandwiches, meat sandwiches, pizza with meat, cheeseburgers, and sandwiches with breaded meat or poultry.
  • Dessert offerings mostly included cookies, cakes, brownies, and candy.

Michael Pollan must have spit his locally grown organic coffee.

We know we should be feeding out children better. We know that better food equals better brains. We know this, but we feed our students monochromatic lunches and expect them to be their best.

The schools receiving the most attention right now are those with the highest percentages of students receiving free or reduced lunch. We measure who’s getting what in the lunchroom and then move directly to the classroom as though what our students eat for breakfast and lunch doesn’t have any causal effect on what they are capable of in the classroom. We use free and reduced lunch as a measure of the implied obstacles in students’ lives and then use those same lunches to create new obstacles in their academic lives.

I made a purchase a few years ago. I bought a Presto PopLite Hot Air Corn Popper.

Every few weeks, I stock up on 5 lbs. of popcorn and serve it up whenever my students need a snack. Whenever I can, I buy a bag of apples or oranges and share them around. I try to feed them food.

A half a cup of popcorn can feed a class of 32. They complain I don’t give them butter or salt, but every kernel is eaten at the end of our 65 minutes together. I issue a challenge: Ignore teacher tenure. Ignore collective bargaining. Ignore merit pay. Ignore all of the most contentious of issues in American education. Ignore all of those things and focus on feeding our students well and teaching them what that means.

Do that and the crazy brains and bodies will be smarter, saner places.


One thought on “Things I Know 100 of 365: Education’s silver bullet is in our stomachs

  1. Zac, I have been bringing a big bag of oranges in and the kids love them, they beg me for them. You are “right on” about what they eat. But it is also educating them to made the good food choices. I was on a field trip on Friday and I wanted to snatch every lunch out of their hands, chips, chips, cookies, cookies, and then they needed to go to the vending machines for soda, more chips, and more cookies. It truly made me sick 0:(

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