The United States has been trying to figure out how to improve its education system for years. Academics are being redesigned, and movements are fighting for art, music, and gym classes, and even recess. But, what about lunch periods?
When lunch periods are mentioned in schools, the debate usually centers around the nutrition value of the food offered. However, the length of the lunch period can also have an effect on student health and academics.
Why are Lunch Periods Shortened?
There are many reasons why schools offer shorter lunch periods. Some school districts push for a shorter school day that still fits in all the required academic time, so lunch is the first thing to go. Sometimes, administrators fear giving kids any free time, thinking that they’re more likely to get into trouble and face disciplinary action. Some schools are just overwhelmed with kids, and don’t have the space to keep all students at lunch for a long period of time because they have to rotate.
How Can Longer Lunch Periods Benefit Students?
Healthier Meals – One of the top reasons for allowing students to have a longer lunch period is that they can have healthier meals.
- Often, food preparation takes longer for healthier meals, so when the staff has more time to prepare, the students can have healthier options.
- When students have more time to eat, they are likely to eat more. That means that even if the students start with dessert, they’ll have time to eat all of their foods – including the fruits and vegetables. This is especially important in low income schools, where students depend on school lunches for up to half of their daily food.
Time to Relax – Rushing to eat is an unhealthy practice, and neither is a completely structured day with no down time.
- Rushing to eat doesn’t give students time to recognize things like signs of fullness, or the way that certain foods make them feel. Eating slowly allows kids to learn how to eat what is good for them, and when to stop.
- Attention spans are dropping among students, and short lunch periods may be a part of the problem. Allowing students to have some down time to relax, socialize, and stop worrying about academics is critical to their ability to focus in the afternoon – just like it is with adults. Although adults may worry about students getting into trouble with free time, many students use lunch to socialize, catch up on homework or get extra help from teachers.