Science just told us why kids need longer lunch periods

Are you the kind of student who feels like you NEVER get enough time for your lunch period? Well, it turns out, science might agree with you.

Harvard University researchers conducted a study that compares a student’s food choices with the amount of time they have to eat. What they found is this: 20 minutes is most definitely not enough time to eat a healthy lunch. With this amount of time, students eat less vegetables, drink less milk, and consume less of everything, overall. As for those who aren’t on a time crunch, they’re able to make better, more nutritional decisions as they eat enough food.

For this particular experiment, the Harvard team used 1,000 students from a low-income, urban area in Massachusetts. These students attend six different middle and elementary schools, with lunch periods that are 20 to 30 minutes long. To collect their data, the researchers analyzed the students’ food options and consumption. At the end of the lunch period, they then observed what was left on their plates.

The results: those with 20 minutes or less to eat consumed 13% less of their entrée, 12% less of their veggies, and 10% less of their milk than students who were given a minimum of 25 minutes for lunchtime.

Since many students must wait on lines for their lunch, this left some kids with 10 minutes or less to sit down and eat. To fix this problem, the researchers believe that schools can come up with tactics to help their students make it through the lunch line in less time. Some ideas: automated checkout devices or additional serving lines.

“We were surprised by some of the results because I expected that with less time children may quickly eat their entrée and drink their milk but throw away all of their fruits and vegetables,” said Eric Rimm, senior author of the study. “Not so–we found they got a start on everything, but couldn’t come close to finishing with less time to eat.”

Since everyone needs to eat and deserves enough time to do so, we hope that schools listen to these facts and start brainstorming how they can make lunch periods longer and healthier for kids


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[Image via Shutterstock]

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