Monday, November 1, 2010

Healthy eating takes time

As some of you may recall from my very first post on this blog, our elementary school here in Iowa City gives the kids only fifteen minutes in which to eat lunch every day. Recently, the school district made that practice uniform across all elementary schools in the district (some of which had been getting away with a slightly-less-stingy twenty-minute lunch period), apparently for the sake of maximizing instructional time -- yet another sacrifice for the sake of raising standardized test scores.

A group of Iowa City parents led by Katina Lillios is now petitioning the school superintendent to reverse that decision and recognize the value of giving kids the time to eat a healthy lunch. You can read the group’s letter, express support, and find links to other school lunch sites at the group’s website. Wish them luck!


StepfordTO said...


Is the entire lunch period 15 minutes, or are the kids given time to play outside after they eat? The lunch period at our school is an hour, but the kids who stay for lunch are booted outside after about 15-20 minutes. (My kids, and many other kids in our retro neighbourhood, come home for lunch, which is great for them; for me, not so much.)

Chris said...

There is a recess after lunch, but it's not very long -- maybe 10 or 15 minutes? (I'm relying on my daughters' reports for that information, since the schedule in the school directory seems to be understating the time.) It's good that that recess is there, but, at least judging from our experience, the kids don't want to miss recess, and they usually have to clear out of the lunchroom because other groups are coming in, so the recess isn't really providing any cushion for finishing their lunches.

I am still hoping to pin down the exact times that the different grades at our school have for recess every day, and how much it has been cut since last year. I'll post something when I finally get the numbers from a more official source.

Does your school really give an hour for lunch and recess combined?

StepfordTO said...

Yes, an hour (11:45-12:45), down from an hour and a half when I was a kid (during which time I was able to walk home on my own from school, have a leisurely lunch, and walk back to school!). I'm pretty sure lunch periods have to be at least an hour in elementary school, but I don't know if it's a board rule or something required by the province. In Toronto public schools, all kids have the option of going home for lunch, but the reality is most of them (outside of a few neighbourhoods) have to stay since there is no one at home during the day. An hour sounds great, and I suppose in comparison with 15 minutes, it *is* great, but they do kick the kids outside after 15-20 minutes, so it doesn't really allow for a leisurely lunch. It's one of the reasons my daughters refuse to stay for lunch on a regular basis. That, and the fact that the lunch room is run by authoritarian "lunch ladies"; the room itself is also kind of unpleasant.

I really can't believe that your lunches are so short. It seems to be a trend (cutting lunch and recess time) that we've resisted somewhat, here in Ontario. There are also two mandated 15-minute recess periods, separate from lunch, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

This is a subject that greatly interests me, so please do keep us posted regarding your situation. I hope the Iowa City parents are successful in preventing further cuts; in fact, I hope they can petition for longer than the original 20 or so minutes. I think 45 minutes should be a minimum for a lunch period for elementary kids, but I know parents here would balk if ours were cut to anything under the hour that we're now accustomed to.