Squeezed school lunch times shortchange kids’ nutrition

While there are national standards for the nutritional quality of school lunches, none exist for the time kids actually get to eat them. When school districts cut lunch to 20 minutes or less to accommodate more instruction time, students who buy their lunches are left with little time to eat.

Juliana Cohen, adjunct assistant professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in an August 26, 2019 Washington Post article that the length of the school lunch period is an important factor in ensuring that kids eat healthy. Her research has shown that kids who have less than 20 minutes to eat lunch consume significantly less of their entrées, milk, and vegetables than those who aren’t as rushed.

Children who eat healthier foods learn better and have fewer disciplinary issues, Cohen told the Post.

She said time restrictions affect low-income kids the hardest, because they rely on school meals for half of their daily calories. If the Trump administration’s recent proposal to cut 3 million people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) passes, poor children may become more reliant on school meals, she said. “It is even more important that these children have sufficient time to eat.”

Read Washington Post article: Lunchtime is so short in some public schools, students are going hungry