A school in Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in California has shortened its lunch period to 20 minutes in an effort to add more learning time to the day. However, by the time the food is served most students only have about 15 minutes to eat it, according to The Washington Post.
The scheduling leads to wasted food and hungry students. Ironically, BUSD is one of the only districts in the country that has a comprehensive garden and cooking program, but students don’t have time to eat the food they make.
A short lunch period has more of an impact on low-income children, many of whom get the majority of their caloric intake at school, the article said. Each state has its own lunch time requirements.
Under pressure to increase students’ test scores, districts are cutting what they view as non-instructional time. Unfortunately, what often ends up cut are parts of the school day that allow students to unwind, refresh and get more out of their learning, such as recess and lunch.
In some schools, a 20-minute period of time for lunch includes getting students to the lunchroom, standing in line, eating and then cleaning up after themselves. Often, simple changes that increase lunchroom efficiencies and shorten lines can add precious minutes to a students’ eating period.
There are currently no federal laws that require students to have a certain amount of sit-down-and-eat lunch time, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing for a minimum of 20 minutes for eating after the food is served. Offering too few minutes for students to eat sets up poor lifelong habits.
Amy Ulrich, a Bellevue, Washington, parent who successfully had her child’s school’s lunchtime changed from 20 to 25 minutes, is putting a longer lunch resolution before the National Parent Teacher Association. She hopes that it will be discussed at the organization’s 2020 convention.