Amelia Brown, principal of the William D. Kelley School in Philadelphia, recently called on parents and Operation Town Watch Integrated Services (which helps neighborhoods fight crime and drug deals) to position themselves strategically around corner stores around the school. Their mission: to keep kids from buying junk food and encourage them to eat a real breakfast at school.

Since becoming principal last August, Brown has focused intently on improving the diets of her students. She began by urging corner stores to refuse to sell candy and sodas to kids in the morning, with mixed results. Brown, convinced that junk food is to blame for the headaches and stomachaches that consistently undermine academic performance, as well as for the steadily-increasing "flab" of older students, noted that she'd have no choice but to organize boycotts of the stores that wouldn't stop selling to students.

Brown's efforts seem extreme, better reserved for the fight against underage smoking, say, or illegal drug use. After all, we're just talking about soda, candy, and chips. Or are we?

As The Times noted, we've known for a long time that cravings for sugar, salt, and fat are inborn; even newborns can't resist the taste of sugar. Those "primal" cravings are exactly what the food industry capitalizes on, endlessly engineering, testing, and retesting products for "hyperpalatability": an elusive quality that renders edibles both irresistible and addictive. PET imaging shows these kinds of foods work on our brains in ways similar to heroin, opium, and morphine; it's thought that they even stimulate the release of dopamine, which prevents the brain from turning on the "brakes" that would normally prevent us from overeating. Maybe Brown's calling ...

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