I was involved in a conversation regarding youth crime and creating safer communities through public arts programmes . The conversation covered everything from parenting, television and game consoles to education and life long learning. However, it surprised me that some people do not see the relevance of what we eat and how this contributes our mental state, nurtured by our physical environment.
Government statistics and school surveys continue to monitor the educational attainment of our children, paying particular attention to the variances of sex and ethnic background. I believe more emphasis should be placed on food and the provision of nutritional meals. Surely this must be relative to performance and surely Michelin chef Jamie Oliver’s high profiled investigation into school meals suggest we do more?
School monitoring has explored the performance of minority groups and most notably focused on the under achievement of black boys. National statistics in general also tell of disproportionate levels of blacks confined to prisons, mental health institutes, unemployment, low paid jobs and having fewer opportunities to reach their potential. The connected reasons and figures seem to be overlooked by right wing newspapers, happy to promote statistics released under freedom of information laws. One issue highlighted is the suggestion black men are responsible for two-thirds of shootings, robberies and street crimes in London.
So where am I going with this? Unfortunately I don’t have a magic wand but I do believe a collaborative approach to solving such problems is needed. It must include local professionals, parents and leaders within our communities involved in monitoring all of the aforementioned areas. Public art initiatives involving deprived or underachieving members of communities will also help and may be a preventative measure. We cannot leave it to the state to only take an interest in neglected members of our society during the run up to local and national elections just for votes
The conversation reminded me of Lliaila Afrika’s book Nutricide. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of the economics of food manipulation and the historical impact of nutritional deficiencies on the psyche of both white and African Americans. Personally, I found it very thought provoking. It is a controversial book some may find difficult to.. ‘digest’ if you pardon the punt. The book provides facts and figures on how Uncle Sam benefits from the average Joes ignorance about junk food, poor nutrition and its contribution to mental illness, emotional disturbances particularly amongst children and the breakdown of communities. Without generalising I have travelled to many cities and I do notice the ‘high crime’ areas tend to be those with a plethora of fast food outlets, liquor stores and not much else!
The author’s research uncovers the historical differences in diets between Europeans and Africans and highlights the negative impact a particular western diet has. I’m no expert but surely there is some truth in his message that diet is a very important component determining the path of our youths. Maybe, just as we are products of your environment, we are products of what that environment continues to eat?