Re: DSM: Sudbury Schools - Summerhill

Debbie Athos (
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 01:38:39 -0400


Some "food" for thought on a Sudbury style boarding school...

I have considered doing the Sudbury model as a boarding school. One reason
is that I believe in the power of daily food to bring people together in a
way that nothing else can. I've been studying natural living and eating for
twenty-two years and feel when people eat the same food (basically) on a
daily basis, they create similar blood quality and their thinking and
understanding becomes more "in harmony" with everyone in the
group/community. I thought that it would be easier to hire one good cook
than to inspire 30 parents into the kitchen to prepare healthier meals for
their families...

The quality of the food matters as well. If we choose high quality,
organically grown foods that are prepared fresh on campus then our students
will get the best possible nourishment for their minds and bodies. Better
nourishment equals better learning, better behavior, happier and healthier
students and staff.

My five children have all been raised on high quality, natural foods and
people are always commenting on how "different" they seem. They are calm,
peaceful, interesting, caring, creative, smart and very healthy kids... They
are a joy to be with and I know that the food they eat plays an important
part in why they are the way that they are.

Last year, I started a study group with the goal of starting a Sudbury
school. We met three days a week with 15 students ages 5 through 15 for
three months. Students brought packed lunches and I could see the health of
each kid in their lunch box. The more commercial the lunch the more health
challenges of the student. The more home-made, natural, non-factory foods in
their lunchbox the healthier the kids would be.

The students wanted cooking classes, so I offered cooking classes two times
a week.
( I'd been teaching natural cooking to adults and kids for seventeen years.)
The recipes were kid-friendly, fun, sugar-free, dairy-free and delicious!
The class was packed and the food was gone in seconds. The students ask
questions about all the ingredients that they had never used before. We
talked about growing foods organically and about chemicals and
preservatives. It was a very positive experience for all of us. I found that
the kids were very interested in their food and making better choices yet
their parents weren't.

Two reasons that parents were not interested in upgrading their child's
diet. The first reason is that parents don't have time or want to take the
time to cook. The second is that organic, naturally grown foods tend to
cost more. I also began to see that many parents didn't want to be involved
in their kids day at all and that included cooking for them. I have spent a
lot of time in the kitchen and a lot of money on food. With five children
ages 6 to 23, we have gone to see a medical doctor two times - once for a
fall while playing and the second time for an allergy. Spending a little
more money on quality food on a daily basis pays off in the big picture.

I have been reading about the challenges that many of the schools are having
with behavior problems and know that as a day school we are dealing with so
many other issues that are apart of these students lives beyond their school
experience. Beginning with what they eat. Food feeds the brain and the brain
controls our thinking and actions. Food is an important, yet overlooked
priority. And unless we can inspire families to put more time and energy
into their meals - a boarding school could be a place to start...

My son is attending his second year of college. He came home this past
week-end and described how bad the food is on campus. He's been cooking most
of his own food in his dorm. He said that he can feel the difference in his
body and mind when he has to eat in the cafeteria. We tried to get an
exemption from school lunches for him, they refused his request after the
college physician examined him and found that he was "healthy enough" to eat
their food! He had to have a medical problem to get off the lunch program!!!
When I called and talked to the doctor he tried to convince me that the food
that they served was indeed "healthy" and they had "sprouts and tofu." Not

I've decided that if I continue with my plans to open a school based on the
democratic model like Sudbury and Summerhill, that it will have to be a
school that offers a wholistic approach to education and living. The school
would offer healthy meals to students as well as a healthy school
environment/building. Everything from the food quality to the lighting of
the rooms would be to the benefit of the students good health. Because all
the education in the world won't do any of our students any good if they are
not healthy in mind and body.

The school that I have in mind would include classes and workshops for
parents in the evenings and week-ends. Classes that would benefit the whole
school community... raising a healthy family, natural healing, using
medicinal food and herbs, creating a healthy home environment.

I was thrilled to read that this past August that the Berkley, California's
Board of Education "voted unanimously to offer more than 10,000 students in
its district a healthy menu of fresh, organic foods through a program that
will incorporate whole-foods principals and organic gardening into the
schools' curriculum. Through the Food Systems Project students can choose
from a variety of chemical-free breakfast, lunch and after-school items. "We
want to purchase organic to ensure that it's GMO-free (genetically
modified), BGH-free and irradiation-free. The program is funded by a three
year grant from the USDA as part of a larger project to improve the health
of the entire community by teaching families ways to establish and maintain
lifelong healthy eating habits!!"

This program will be a good model for what I think about food and


From: <>
To: <>
Date: Monday, October 25, 1999 9:29 PM
Subject: Re: DSM: Sudbury Schools - Summerhill

><< Do Sudbury people feel that a Sudbury school should not be boarding? >>
>I think a sudbury-type boarding school could have a lot to offer kids who's
>parents did not agree with the model, but agreed to let them try it. Then
>they wouldn't have to deal with proving it as much, I don't think,,,
>~woty chaos

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