Kids Should Have Time to Eat & Play.
Our mission is for all Washington State schools to provide:
- Thirty (30) minutes total for lunch
- Twenty (20) minutes minimum actual seated eating time for lunch
- 1 hour of exercise during each school day (including P.E.)
- Recess before lunch
Children across Washington are suffering from inadequate time to eat lunch and to play at school. Many Washington state elementary schools currently schedule less than 30 minutes, and some as few as 10 minutes, for the lunch period. After visiting the restroom, washing hands, waiting in the long line, paying for their meals, selecting their food, and finding their seats, many students are left with a very short time to eat– as little as 2 minutes and up to a maximum of 17 minutes based on a lunchtime research study from the Nutrition Department at UW.
Research studies show that when kids are deprived of lunchtime there is an increase in plate waste, compromised nutritional status, a loss of a physiologic satiety cue, increased junk food consumption later in the day, and thus a higher incidence of obesity, as well as compromised school performance and lower math scores.
The majority of our schools are still using “Lunch before recess”, while the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity recommends “recess before lunch.” Studies show that children eat 67% more if recess is before lunch, and they also they tend to calm down faster when they go into the classroom after lunch versus after recess.
These are not high school and middle school children who have the gumption not to tolerate inadequate meal times, but our youngest elementary aged children, most of whom would never consider questioning the lunch staff. Our children may just have a few bites for their lunch, and they don’t have eating disorders. One of the physicians in our supporting team once said: “If some of these children go into their afternoons hungry day after day and I wonder if they will just accept it as a part of life.” Another physician in our supporting team remarked: “I believe kids need to learn healthy eating habits and healthy relationships with food in order to prevent the many health problems that come with poor dietary habits later in life.”
This is a serious issue across Washington State. National surveys conducted between 2012 and 2013 showed that schools in the South fared best and schools in the West fared worst with regards to providing students sufficient time to eat lunch (School Nutrition Association 2014). Schools in the West were least likely to provide students at least 30 minutes to eat lunch, and were least likely to provide even the minimum recommended time for lunch (at least 20 minutes). The State of Nutrition 2014 survey indicates that the typical period length of lunch is about half an hour. The National lunch survey indicates that 65% of schools in the South, 40% in the Northeast, 30% in the Midwest, and only 20% of schools in the West, provided more than 30 minutes to eat in 2013.
Children who are part of the Free and Reduced Lunch Program are hit the hardest. They must wait in line, which reduces their time to eat even further. This may be the only square meal these kids receive that day.