OUR FIRST FOOD FOR THE BRAIN “MODEL” SCHOOL
In 2006 we selected our first Food for the Brain “model” school, Cricket Green, located in Merton, South London. The school is a special needs school with 120 pupils from the age of 5-16 years. All of the children have diverse learning needs including autistic spectrum disorder, ADHD, physical disabilities and language difficulties. 38% of the school population are from ethnic minority backgrounds with 9% of the children having English as an additional language.
During the Easter break we started working with the head teacher, Celia Dawson and her team of highly motivated staff. Once the summer term started our first objective was to complete baseline tests on a focus group of children, which included the Conner's Assessment Scale, a Digit Memory Span Test as well as our Food for the Brain child questionnaire.
After that we were busy running workshops for both the parents and children. These workshops not only promote the concept of healthy eating but provide nourishing ideas for meals and snack options to ensure optimal nutrition for the brain. The events are interactive so that the children can have fun with food and try new tastes including "rainbow" vegetables and fruit smoothies. The parent workshops provide new ideas for healthy meals as well as snack options. Many of our commercial sponsors provided free samples so that as soon as the event was over each family took home a goody bag of ingredients to enable them to put their new food preparation knowledge into practice. In addition to this we provided guidance sheets and shopping lists to help parents shop healthily on a budget.
Our next task was to look at the food provided on the School premises and we worked closely with both the contract caterer and the Local Education Authority. We made progress in the school's Breakfast Club which was a facility run by school staff and attended by pupils and staff. When we first met the Breakfast Club staff they told us that the children chose white toast with golden syrup or jam, sugary cereals and tea or coffee. Now the children have baked beans (low sugar / low salt) on their toast which they find is a more satisfying option, sustaining them through the morning time-table. The Club has also started to serve seeded or wholegrain breads as well as Warburton's All in One and uses sugar free jams such as that by Meridian and nut butters including almond and cashew nut butter for a satisfying tasty topping.
In order to optimise nutrition for the brain, the children also took nutritional supplements during the school day, these include an essential fat (Equazen's Eye Q Smooth) as well as a multivitamin & mineral (Higher Nature's Dinochews).
The next exciting development that was scheduled for later in the programme was the inclusion of a prestigious exercise programme designed specifically to enhance the children's co-ordination. SAQ® International (speed, agility, quickness) is a programme employed by the likes of West Ham United and the Rugby Football Union as well as internationally by the Miami Dolphins. The SAQ® programme aims to improve co-ordination, balance and fundamental movement difficulties.
The project was completed and the findings of the project have been compiled in a report which can be viewed in our report section.
Cricket Green School: Final Report