Lunchtime - How Much Time?

I recently became aware that just like start times, lunchtime varies widely from school to school.  There is a Board procedure - H61.01 that states:

"Meal periods shall be long enough for students to eat and socialize – a minimum of 10 minutes are provided to eat breakfast and 20 minutes to eat lunch with additional time as appropriate for standing in line".

"It is the policy of the Seattle School District, that each school located in a District building participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Providing quality, nutritious meals that appeal to students in a safe, clean, pleasant dining environment shall be a priority."

As Charlie likes to point out, a procedure or policy is only as good as those who will enforce it.  In this case, that would be the Superintendent. 

What has come to light is that a growing number of elementary schools are having lunch periods of 20 minutes or less.   While some kids eat quickly, others don't and sometimes that gets perceived as dawdling. 

Many students (and we know this is definitely true for middle/high school) run out of time as they are standing in long lines to get food.  Bring your own food - get to eat faster.   (Or, as is the case for older students, go off campus.  It's a pretty sad thing to see so many kids call soda and chips "lunch" but I see it all the time at Roosevelt.) 

Because of the rush, some of the younger students are encouraged to go to recess to make room for other students.

None of this is good.  It's a very American thing to wolf food down but I know this is not the case in many countries.  (My sons attended school in Italy and, as you can guess, food is important.) 

And, if we have fewer students wanting to/being able to access food service, we may see fewer food choices and cutbacks in food service.  That may not affect your child but it is very important for students on free/reduced lunch service.


- Garfield has ONE 30-minute meal period for the entire school
- Ingraham has ONE 35-minute meal period for the entire school
- All the comprehensive middle schools have two meal periods of 30 minutes
- Arbor Heights has 15-minute lunch periods; Bagley has one 25 minute one and one 15-minute one.  Broadview-Thompson, Coe, Concord, Highland Park, Laurelhurst, MLK, Jr., Madrona, Maple, McDonald, Montlake, North Beach, Northgate, Orca, Rogers, Sanislo, Thornton Creek, TOPS, Viewlands, West Woodland, and Wing Luke all have at least one 15-minute lunch period.  

I know the instructional time is important but students need these breaks to socialize and refresh themselves. 


Anonymous said…
"Bring your own food - get to eat faster. "

So @ a school with a 15 minute lunch, this kinda of screws the FRL Kids

NW Mom said…
Yes, this is a really bad deal for the kids! I have a kid in K and a kid in 2nd at 2 different schools. It's a major issue at both schools. The great thing about this year in 2nd grade is the teacher allows the kids to finish their lunch during a "snack time" in the afternoon. The kid in K has no such luck and with morning snack just before lunch, he never eats. He only drinks chocolate milk. And, don't get me going on how they SHOULDN'T be serving chocolate milk in the schools since that substitutes lunch for many kids.
Peanut said…
With the size of the cafeteria in some of the elementaries with 15 minute lunches, it's the only way they can do it. Otherwise, they would exceed fire code capacity.
Anonymous said…
I was surprised to find out when my son started there that a school as large as Garfield would only have one 30-minute lunch period, but according to him it's not a problem. He has time every day to buy his lunch (sometimes off campus, but usually not), eat, and spend some time reading or chatting. I guess it works.

-Garfield Mom
Jet City mom said…
When I was in grade school we had 45-60 min for lunch/recess.
I cant imagine a shorter time for elementary students.
I would rather have a longer school day.
RosieReader said…
My Ingraham students like having one lunch period. It allows them to connect with their friends who aren't in academic classes. They mostly bring lunch, or buy off campus, so I don't know about lunchroom lines.
Maje said…
Before my daughter started K, I was worried about how lunch would work. The kids get a set period for lunch then after-lunch recess and I was worried that she would skip lunch to go out and play.

So I started paying attention to how long she took to eat lunch at home and realized she was usually done within ten minutes. At her school, they don't excuse the kids for recess until they've been in there for 10-15 minutes. Once I put those two things together, I became much more comfortable with how lunch works.

She also gets a snack about 1.5 hours before lunch and one as soon as she gets home. For our family, that works out fine.
juicygoofy said…
20 minutes lunches at Whittier seem to be enough time, that is, if the students are released from class on time. It really depends on the day and/or teacher.

One thing at Whittier that seems to work is that the K-2 lunch is after the 3-5. The K-2 children are allowed to stay in the lunchroom into recess, if they want. It means a little less recess, but works for the younger students or those who eat slowly.

However, many parents would prefer recess before lunch...which is a different discussion altogether.
Anonymous said…
Hamilton has 3 lunch periods divided by grade level. Each is 30 minutes.
Anonymous said…
At Arbor Heights we actually have 3 lunch/recess periods to accommodate the entire school. Everyone gets a total of 40 mins combined lunch/recess time. The difference is the K-3 kids get 20 mins for lunch and 20 mins for recess while the 4/5 kids get 15 mins for lunch and 25 mins for recess. I've been there during lunch and there is always a handful of kids that take extra time eating so are welcome to stay in the lunchroom while they finish even though the next wave of students may be entering.
I know we have a 10 min shorter school day than a lot of other elementary schools in the district. That equals ~30 less hours of school per/year. I know it's been mentioned as one of the reasons for shortening the lunch/recess time from what it had been in previous years. That lost time needs to be "made up" somehow and that's a place where 5 or 10 mins can be gained. I understand that next year our bell schedule may change and we'd get back those 10 mins and hopefully a slightly longer lunch/recess period.

~Arbor Heights Parent
Anonymous said…
When my child attended Broadview-Thomson in K and 1st grade, not only was her lunch 15 minutes, but it was at 10:50am. So she would come home from school so hungry she would have another meal (at 4pm) and dinner at 6pm. It made me insane. She wasn't hungry at lunch time because she had had breakfast a few hours earlier. Next year my son starts at Broadview. I am sure it'll be the same.

Northend Mom
xL@L said…
Last year at Lowell@Lincoln some of the kids (yes, themselves) got so fed up with not being able to eat lunch before being kicked out that they started timing how much time they had to eat. By the time they got from the 3rd or 4th floor down to the lunch room and sat down they would have only a few (5-7?) minutes.

That's crazy! How many adults can reasonably eat a healthy lunch in 7 minutes, let alone force elementary kids to do that?!

I hope it's better this year, can anyone enlighten?
Anonymous said…
It depends on the day. In my daughter's 2nd grade class the teacher gives them a snack time in the afternoon to finish their lunches or have a snack. I think I can count on one hand how many times I've heard "I only had 5 minutes to eat my lunch".

Northend Mom
A north end parent said…
At our elementary school we have 30 minutes total for lunch and recess. 15 minutes into it, kids are allowed to line up for recess. However, some of them don't get through the lunch line until 10 minutes in. They are allowed to stay longer, but the lunch monitors get angry at them because it eats into their recess. An additional concern is that the lunchroom is running out of food. It always has one option, but sometimes it's only a burrito (without cheese or salsa) or a half a bagel (it used to be a whole bagel, and before that, two bagels). At a nearby school, a parent told me that her child got "teriyaki and rice" but they had run out of teriyaki.
TempMom said…
I'm really surprised that this district has policies a superintendent can choose to enforce or not.

A the same time I'm disappointed that theone we have has choosen to ignore this one. I'm sure he did'nt just learn about this and we are in March.

Must be that he is so reluctant to rock the boat he won't say boo about anything.

Can't Seattle find a superintendent with courage AND a heart?
Jan said…
Here is the thing that bothers me! Why does this ever need to be an issue? Why aren't principals and staff at schools just coming up with some flexible, creative ways of getting food and kids together for long enough that the latter gets inside the former?

The manager at Starbucks (or Macy's) doesn't need a centralized directive from regional or national headquarters to figure out how to give employees time for breaks -- or shouldn't. We need principals to step up here and solve problems. There are intractible problems in schools -- this is not one of them.

Honestly, I feel like some of these administrators are just "phoning it in." This should NOT be this hard!
Isadore said…
Jan: Please see Charlie's quote about how well administrators adhere to policies and regulations.

You'd think they didn't exist.

And no one else will point them out because someone might not like it. So everyone keeps their mouths shut.

Lets start a hotline for THAT!
Jan said…
Isadore -- you (and Charlie) are right, of course. I am not saying we shouldn't complain because schools should just handle this. I am saying that I cannot believe how badly managed schools are if the adults in charge aren't noticing that there is too little food (half a bagel? rice but the teriyaki is all gone? What?) or that small children have 5 minutes or less to eat. Heck -- I don't even mind if they cannot come up with a solution -- if they just were up to NOTICING the problem and seeking help! It just drives me crazy to hear all these stories of pathetic, ad hoc solutions pasted together by kids (and parents trying to somehow figure out how to keep them fed enough to learn) -- and the idea that somehow there is this edict from on high that is being foisted off in some half-baked, unworkable way, with a vague nod towards "satisfying the requirement" -- regardless of whether anyone actually eats. It sounds like some schools have workable solutions -- but what is going on at the ones that do not?!

Ah. Captcha says I am just being "renactiv." Oh well.
Flora said…

Oh, they know..........they just don't want to hear about it.

Six months into the school year parents finally found out. And what's being done about it?

We have seen no change at our third graders school. STill 15 minutes.

We are just waiting to see if he will still be there when anything changes.

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