Giving Kids Under Twenty Minutes To Shove School Lunches Down Their Throats Is Insane

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hungry boy eating spaghettiHow long does it take your average first-grader to eat lunch? Half an hour? Forty minutes? Well, if your kids are in Seattle public schools, like mine are, the district policy is to give students 20 minutes for a seated lunch. But between all the farting around that elementary school age kids do, or waiting in the hot lunch line, that often ends up being 15 minutes or less for lunch. Some Seattle parents have now complained to the Seattle School Board about this, and I offer each and every one of them a fist bump.

I don’t pack my kids big lunches when they go to school because I know they won’t have time to eat them. Often, my son comes home with almost his entire ham and cheese sandwich uneaten. When I ask him about it, he says, “Mom, we didn’t have enough time!” That frustrates me. We’re talking about growing kids, here. How the heck are they supposed to focus on schoolwork when they barely get anything to eat between the hours of 9:30 and 3:30? When my kids are home, they constantly eat. I cannot for the life of me imagine how they are going without more than a handful of Cheerios and some apple slices during an entire school day.

In fact, one parent told KIRO 7 that the amount of time students have to eat can be significantly less than 20 minutes:

Parent Sascha Demerjian says students getting hot lunch were observed to be particularly rushed because of the time they spent waiting in line for food.
“Some of them were having as little as six minutes of seated lunch time, and especially for little kids, you’re not looking at a lot of food going down,” Demerjian said.

I understand that our schools are pressed for time as it is. There aren’t enough hours in the day (or money) to get done what they need to get done. But I would rather my kids get enough food in them than learn a few extra math problems. I would also support extending the school day, even if only by 15 minutes, so that kids could get more lunch time. I am not a teacher or in any way involved in education, so obviously I don’t know the whole story. Typically, if problems were as simple as they seemed, they would already be solved. So I am sure there are complications here that I don’t know about (I would love to learn about them in the comments if you are in the know, btw.) However, giving our kids enough time to eat lunch shouldn’t be something we are skimping on.

Corners need to be cut in the public school system – that is the sad reality. There’s no room for any extra fluff. And I’m sure that there are parents out there who would be angry if lunch period was extended at the cost of something else, because if there’s one group of people you’re never going to be able to please, it’s parents. But surely I’m not alone in thinking that giving kids under twenty minutes to either shove food down their throats or go back to class hungry, is more than a little bit crazy?

Seattle Public Schools has put together a wellness task force to examine the issue, and will come back with recommendations in 18 months.

(Photo: Gelpi JM / Shutterstock)