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More Time for School Lunch

Why should my school have adequate time to eat?

School lunches are serving healthier foods, including more fresh fruits and vegetables. But students don’t get the added nutrition if they don’t eat the food. Salads, fresh fruits and raw veggies take more time to eat. And elementary students with missing teeth may need even more time to eat. Sometimes kids eat their favorite foods first, and if they run out of time, those vegetables may land in the trash. In addition to simply having time to eat, lunch is time for students to rest between classes and socialize with friends, which are extremely important for their overall well-being and emotional health.

When should lunch occur? According to Coonley et al., serving a healthy lunch around midday has been identified as one of 10 factors associated with developing healthy eating habits in school children. So often, however, lunch time is squeezed with a rush to get out for recess and academic scheduling pressure. School administrators are under intense pressure to increase instruction time and boost standardized test scores. The lunch period is often the first place they look to remove time.

Additionally, given the shortage of time, other activities often cut into lunch. Schools should avoid scheduling things such as assemblies, tutoring, or student club/organization meetings during the meal periods.

Here’s the research that backs this up:

  • Bergman EA, et al The relationship between the length of the lunch period and nutrient consumption in the elementary school lunch setting. J Child Nutr Manage, 28(2): October 2004.
  • Bergman EA, Buergel NSETF, Englund TF, et al. The relationship of meal and recess schedules to plate waste in elementary schools. J Child Nutr Manage, 28(2): October 2004.
  • O’Toole TP, Anderson S, Miller C, et al. Nutrition services and foods and beverages available at school: results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006. J Sch Health, 77(8): 500-521, 2007.