A Longer Lunch?

Story By: Ishita Patra, Staff Writer

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Let’s face it – most students in the U.S. don’t get much time to eat lunch. With our big student population, most students feel rushed after the long wait in line.

A recent study suggested that this time crunch or short time during lunch may be undermining good nutrition at school. A professor of epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, Eric Rim, and his colleagues observed close to 1,000 students from grades 3 to 8, at a lunch time in a urban school district in Massachusetts. Rimm and his colleagues noted what each students put on their trays and what was left behind after the final bell rang for the end of lunch. Rimm stated that “kids who had less than 20 minutes to eat were consuming less of everything.”

Another report stated the horrifying results of a shorter lunch time: a study by the  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported that students were eating 13 percent less of their main entree and 12 percent less of their vegetables. It also showed that students drank 10 percent less milk as compared to kids who have had 25 minutes to eat. The study, furthermore, showed that there was a correlation of waste among kids who had less time to eat.

Julia Cohen, one of Rimm’s colleagues stated that “many children, especially those from low-income families, rely on school meals for up to half their daily energy intake, so it is essential that we give students a sufficient amount of time to eat their lunches.” Rimm further stated that giving students enough time to eat is also important for building healthy eating habits. “Kids learn a lot at school. They should learn how to eat slowly and enjoy their food,” Rimm said.

However, many public schools across America have shrunk their  student lunch times to just 25 minutes. A poll by the National Public Radio, the Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard school of public health in 2013 showed that 20 percent of students from kindergarten through fifth grade reported having.

There’s another factor that may be adding to longer lines and less table time: the number of school children receiving free meals under the National School Lunch program has increased in recent years according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. Due to these long lines at school parents have seen a recent trend: fewer students are buying lunch, which affects the amount of money the school annually receives. Due to kids not buying lunch normally, budgets like the fine arts department and sports department could face serious budget cuts. Lunch provides a revenue for schools, and if students are hesitant to buy lunch, it forces the administration staff to cut off programs to make ends meet.

A 45-minute lunch period could provide most students a sufficient amount of seated time in cafeterias, taking into account travel time to the cafeteria and waiting in line for food. If lunch periods can’t be lengthened, schools could still maximize student eating time by adding more serving lines, implementing automated payment systems or taking other measures to make their cafeterias more efficient.

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A Longer Lunch?