School Lunch

This is not directly related to nutrition but it’s something that was brought to my attention last night, and I wanted to reflect.

While Ed was making dinner, three of our darling neighborhood kids knocked on the door. They were selling Nestle cookies and Sally Foster things for a school fundraiser – to raise money to take a science class field trip to Keystone for a couple of nights. I invited them in (don’t worry – we know them and their parents well) and spent $40 on things we do not want or need, and then just talked to them about school.

Apparently they have a new principal this year, and she has come up with some new rules that they don’t approve of. One of them is regarding lunch and recess time. They get 5 minutes for lunch, and 10 minutes of “organized play” for recess, and that’s it. They’re in 4th and 5th grade. Now, I realize they could be exaggerating on their allotted lunch time, but I trust these kids. They’re smart and wouldn’t lie.

One of the girls said that yesterday, by the time she got through the lunch line, the bell had rung for recess. She told her teacher “I need to eat my lunch” (good for her!), and her teacher said “You can bring it back up to the classroom”. They have a friend who is diabetic and needs to test her blood sugar levels before eating, and they said she never gets time to eat because the testing takes a few minutes, and then lunch is over.

I don’t have kids. And when I do, they will follow all of the rules at school, whether they – or I – like them or not. But, this rule would really upset me! Five minutes is NOT enough time for a child to eat a lunch. Kids should not be encouraged to rush through their meals, and they’ll learn better throughout the day if they’re allowed some social time with their friends while they eat. (I’m also not crazy about the “organized play” at recess, but I’ll stick to the lunches here).

For those of you with kids in school, do they also have rushed lunch periods? They must be starving by the time they get home! This is just another reason why breakfast should be emphasized as a very important meal, and you should send them out the door with protein (not sugar) in their bellies so they can make it through their day.

Anyway, this was just something I found really interesting. I’m totally siding with the neighborhood kids here – they deserve a longer lunch period! Even 15 minutes would be appropriate. I can't remember how much time I got to eat in elementary school, but I know it was enough time to eat and be social with my friends, then play a full game of kickball at recess. I never remember feeling rushed!


  1. Wow! That's terrible. They probably get more time on the schedule, but it can take ten minutes or more to get through line. Sometimes depending on scheduling they are coming from library or computers and run late, which could put them at the back of the line on certain days. Length of time to eat is something very important. As is recess before lunch, which was covered in a NYT article months ago. Thanks!

  2. "they will follow all of the rules at school, whether they – or I – like them or not."

    Would you complain to the school and try to change it though? I admit I did not like school or authority, and now that I have children, I want them to follow the rules and listen to authority but only to certain a point. This is one thing I would encourage them to not listen to.

    Even 15 minutes for lunch is not enough time. Meals should be a social time, not viewed as something to be rushed through and gets in the way of "more important" things. People have a bad relationship with food already and short meal times only reinforce the need for bad food.

  3. Yes, I would definitely set up a meeting with the principal and express my concerns. However, I would do this without my kids knowing. Above all, I would want them to understand the importance of respecting authority, and I would explain to them that sometimes life isn't fair. If they were hungry due to not enough time to eat their lunch, I would let them bring a snack and ask the teacher to let them eat it in the afternoon.

  4. That's great! I definitely fear the day my child has to go to school for so many reasons. The poor food being one of them.

  5. My son is in kindergarten and has 30 minutes for lunch. Even with that much time he has trouble finishing because so much of that time is spent transferring them to the cafeteria, getting them settled, opening packages, and getting them cleaned up and organized to leave. Also his lunch starts at 10:30! Not sure if that's good or bad, but seems a bit odd at least.

  6. I've seen how slow a lunch line can go so I can see the end of the line getting through as the bell rings. Unfortunate. I hope the school get's it worked out.

  7. I don't have kids, but I'm a teacher, and sometimes monitor the cefeteria. (Not a job I enjoy) I have watched the first graders eat before and actually thought about this. They are by far the slowest eaters in the lunchroom. It's almost entertaining to watch one eat a pbj sandwich and take an entire three minutes to chew a first grade bite. Our kids have an entire 20 minutes to eat and we spend a lot of time in September and October hurrying the little ones along to recess when the bell rings. The second graders seem to be a little more successful, the third graders bettter than them, and so on. Perhaps it is this lunchroom ritual that has made all of us learn to eat as fast as we do!

    A sidenote: While I don't think those kids were lying, 5 minutes sounds a little extreme. If it is true, I would like to talk to their principal myself!