Over the course of the past two years, the Board of Education has stated that their decision making has been based on guidance from the CDC. However, when it comes to the CDC recommendation that students are given twenty-five minutes of time strictly for eating lunch in school, the Board does not comply, and unfortunately the kids in our school system pay the price. Under the current schedule in our school the block for lunch is twenty-five minutes; however, this number is deceptive as it includes the time students walk to and back from lunch as well as the time it takes for them to receive their meal in the lunch line and use the bathroom if need be. By the time all is said and done, the figure is closer to ten minutes. This is unacceptable.
In fact, the state of Connecticut recognizes this fact, as it requires a minor who works seven hours to receive a break that is longer than twenty-five minutes. Yet when those same minors are in school for seven hours a day, somehow the administration does not afford them this same right. This has had detrimental effects on the health of our children and society as a whole.
Studies show that when kids are given just five minutes longer to eat, there is a 35% decrease in the amount of food that is thrown away. All of the food that cannot be eaten as a result of short lunch periods adds up to $1.2 billion a year nationally. According to the USDA, healthier food takes longer to consume. As a result, kids in schools are not consuming the necessary nutrients they need to be successful throughout the day. This has contributed to a decrease in cognitive development, self-esteem and mental health. This has also led to an increase in childhood obesity, which now afflicts more than 1 in 5 kids in the United States.
When the state of Washington did an audit on their school’s lunch system, they found that when kids are given more time to eat, they consume more nutritious foods and achieve higher academic grades than those who did not. The same was true for Arundel High School in Maryland, when the school moved from a 25-minute lunch period to a 50-minute lunch period. They also found that whether kids ate healthy foods or not depended on the amount of time they were given to sit down and eat. If the administration changed the schedule at Suffield High School and took three minutes from each of the seven periods, we could provide a 46-minute lunch block. Despite the fact that extensive research has been done, our school district still persists with the status quo to the disadvantage of the students. The time is long overdue that the board does what is right for our children and extends the allotted time they are given to eat.