School wellness research informs policy change

February 22, 2023—Elementary school children in Anchorage, Alaska, will now have additional time for lunch and recess thanks to recent policy updates by the city’s school board. The change from a 45-minute block for lunch and recess to 30 minutes for recess and 20 minutes for lunch—not including time spent waiting in line—was informed by research led by Juliana Cohen, adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Cohen conducted research evaluating a project that piloted the new changes. She found that students in participating schools felt less hungry, were more focused and happier, and had fewer discipline problems.

“What’s particularly exciting about (the revised policy) is that it’s really grounded in strong evidence that suggests many of the components of it, such as these longer lunch periods, more opportunity for physical activity, really will benefit children physically, mentally and academically,” Cohen said in a February 8 Anchorage Daily News article.

Read Anchorage Daily News article: Longer elementary lunch and recess among updates to Anchorage’s student wellness policy

Learn more

Children benefit from more time to eat, move at school (Harvard Chan School news)

Squeezed school lunch times shortchange kids’ nutrition (Harvard Chan School news)

Short lunch periods in schools linked with less healthy eating (Harvard Chan School news)