Health & FitParents: Short lunch breaks are leaving Berkeley grade-school students hungry
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- A school district in California grows vegetables and offers cooking classes, but parents told the Washington Post lunch breaks are so short that
- One parent created a to extend lunchtime.
- The parent alleges the school took time out of lunch and recess in order to make up for 15 additional administrative minutes the school district added.
- Doctors recommend students have at least 20 minutes to eat their food, but
- Research has shown that rushed school lunches can lead to poor academic performance and
At California's Berkeley Unified School District, students can grow their own fresh organic vegetables in a lush green garden. The school district even offers the nation's only district-wide cooking program to instill young children with an appreciation for crafting fine cuisine.
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But when it comes to actually eating food at lunchtime, some students are running out of time and going hungry.
That's according to astory this week highlighting parent complaints of inadequate lunch breaks at BUSD. Upset parents explained how a combination of lunchtimes less than 20 minutes and long lines have led to situations where students simply run out of time and are forced to dump complete trays of uneaten food into the garbage.
"They got their food and dumped it right in the trash and were dismissed for recess," Deb Shell, a BUSD parent, told the Post. "It was heart-wrenching to watch elementary-aged kids not eat and infuriating to see the food wasted."
I tried to stick to suggested serving sizes for a week and I wouldn’t do it again
My plate oftentimes looked emptier than I'd hoped and I realized a lot of recommended portions are a lot smaller than what I'd been eating.
In some situations, she said, the bell would ring and some students still hadn't been served.
Doctors recommend kids get at least 20 minutes for lunchtime
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends every student receivethere are no nationally mandated standards for lunch lengths. Districts, then, are left with the responsibility of deciding how long students have to eat.
Though BUSD student are supposed to have 20 minutes allocated for lunch, the district recently added 15 minutes of instructional time to class schedules, according to the Post. To make up for that added time, Shell alleges, her child's school skimmed five minutes off lunch and five minutes off recess.
Those five minutes may not sound like much, but once students walk to the lunchroom and wait in line, not much time is left to calmly eat a meal.
In a statement emailed to Insider, BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens said the district offers 40 minutes for lunch and recess but that the exact amount of time may vary between sites.
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"In terms of the schedule, there is not a simple solution, as any change in school schedules has many interlocking issues, including timing of after-school programs and transportation," Stephens said. "Changes also create logistical issues for teachers related to their prep time, meetings, and after-school duties."
Shell filed a petition on Change.org. By Wednesday afternoon,it had more than 1,400 signatures.
"Our children were coming home from school with their packed lunches barely touched," Shell wrote on the petition page. "We decided to go observe our school's lunch and that day we witnessed a 15 min lunch period with 18 children still standing in line for food when the recess bell rang to conclude lunch."Short lunchtimes can lead to poor academic performance and may contribute to childhood obesity
Short lunchtimes have been a problem across the US for years.
A national poll conducted by NPR and the Harvard School of Public Health in 2002 foundhad 15 minutes or less to eat their meals - a far cry from the hour lunch breaks of previous generations.
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Research out offound that even with a 2004 state law mandating at least 20 minutes of lunchtime for each student, the reality in Seattle was fewer than 13 minutes.
Aout of Harvard's School of Public Health found that students with fewer than 20 minutes for lunch tended to stray away from healthy foods like vegetables. These negative effects of shortened lunches may also have a disproportionate , who often rely on school meals for the .
Shell's petition is asking the school district to add back the 10 minutes she says were skimped from recess and lunch, and to limit food waste.
Stephens, the BUSD superintendent, said the school is trying to address the issue.
"We are working with our Principals, teachers and departments to determine the specific issues at each site, so that we have a realistic idea of what it could take to make any necessary adjustments," he told Insider.
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A Michelin-starred chef is crafting $3 lunches for thousands of public school kids .
Dan Giusti was chef at the world's "best restaurant" where people spend over $350 to dine. Now, he feeds kids beef enchiladas and jelly sandwiches.He served guests elaborate, 15-plus course meals, at around $300 a head. A perennial favorite was the beef tartare seasoned with black ants.
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