According to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, students with 20 minutes or fewer to eat at lunchtime rarely finish their meal and make unhealthier food choices.
While most elementary school children have about 30 minute lunch periods in the U.S., some spend much of their lunch period standing in line waiting to get their lunch. We often see students come to the source separation station to recycle and compost leftovers with only a few bites of their lunch consumed. When we ask why they didn’t eat more sometimes they say they didn’t like the food; however just as frequently they will say “I didn’t have time to eat everything.”
This response confuses school administrators, as it would seem that 30 minutes is sufficient for a child to each lunch. However, we have observed that students spend a lot of their lunch period talking, as it is often the first opportunity during the school day that they can relax and talk with their friends. Socializing often takes priority to eating!
The research – and We Future Cycle – offer recommendations about how to reduce lunchroom waste and to encourage healthier eating. Designing lunchrooms and lunch schedules to reduce wait times on lunch lines, and to offer as extensive lunch periods as possible, are constructive ideas. While recycling and composting is great, the best way to reduce waste is to not create it!