What Happens When Students Don’t Have Time to Eat Lunch?

Children Classroom

With so much learning that administrators and teachers are required to pack into a full school day, some schools’ lunch periods are so short that there is very little time for children to sit down, take a break and socialize with their friends, and eat an entire nutritious meal.

According to a study by the National Public Radio (NPR), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, 1 in 7 parents stated that their kids receive 15 minutes or less every day for lunch at their school. This time includes leaving the classroom, waiting in line for lunch, finding a place to sit down, and then eating in the cafeteria, as the minutes whittle away.

When children have inadequate time to eat lunch, it can cause nutritional and academic consequences, while taxing your school cafeteria staff and resources as well.

Shortened Lunch Periods Promote Poor Food Choices

According to a 2015 Harvard School of Public Health study, when students had less than 20 minutes to eat, they would consume unhealthy, less nutritious, and quick foods first. When the lunch period was over, they would throw more nutritional items, such as fruits and vegetables, into the garbage–completely untouched. Students are too often consuming fast foods and drinks as quickly as possible as time dwindles during their lunch period.

School Lunches Affect Learning

If you have ever spent time in a classroom with students that have skipped breakfast or lunch, then you know firsthand how it can affect their learning. It’s difficult to focus on learning when your stomach is growling loud enough for your classmates to hear. School breakfasts, or breakfasts at home, set students up for a positive start to their day, and school lunches provide the fuel they need to last throughout the remainder of their learning. Studies have shown that students score twice as well on tests and assessments when they aren’t trying to learn on an empty stomach.

Nutritious Lunches Could Raise Test Scores and Improve Behavioral Problems

There is a direct correlation between a healthy diet and a child’s ability to learn and manage impulsive behaviors. Deficiencies in minerals and vitamins, such as zinc, protein, and omega-3s, can lead to reduced cognitive development in children. Furthermore, when a student’s diet is high in unhealthy fats, it leads to decreased cognition. The same goes for conduct and behavior problems. The University of Southern California found that a diet lacking in iron, vitamin B, protein, and zinc can lead to behavioral issues, as well as foods high in artificial coloring, sugar, and preservative, which have shown to have the same effect.

Making sure healthy foods and meals are available in a school’s meal program is just one part of comprehensive school nutrition planning. Ensuring students have adequate time to eat their lunch is another critical piece. And we know that is not an easy feat.

Harris School Nutrition Solutions is here to help school administrators and food service directors speed up school lunchlines with customizable and comprehensive school lunch software solutions to serve students better and faster. Ready to learn more? Contact us today.