Pediatricians, Nutritionists, and Scientists Agree
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 (1).
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 (2).
“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.” – Bellevue Pediatrician
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.
(1) Bergman EA, Buergel NS, Joseph E, Sanchez A. Time spent by schoolchildren to eat lunch. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000;100:696-698
(2) National Food Service Management Institute. Relationships of meal and recess to plate waste in elementary schools 2004. 24(1-6). Retrieved online: http://www.peacefulplaygrounds.com/download/lunch/insight24-meal- and-recess-schedules.pdf