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Posted at 1:27 PM ET, 11/18/2009

Why can't kids eat in class if they are hungry?

By Valerie Strauss

Here is the story of one mother whose son attended a D.C. middle school and often got hungry in the late morning before his scheduled lunch, which was close to 1 p.m. He was not, however, allowed to eat. Read what she wrote, and then tell us if your children can eat in school.

Bill Turque’s article on breakfast after-the-bell touches on a larger problem in DCPS, and possibly other large urban public schools.

When should our kids be allowed to eat? Is five hours too long for kids to go without food?

When my daughters attended a D.C. elementary school, some teachers required doctors notes before allowing children to have a morning snack. My son attended a middle school in the District, and despite being offered a full, hot breakfast at home (of which he could only eat a few bites at 7 a.m.) he was ravenous by the start of algebra class at 11 am.

Some days, his lunch was not scheduled until 12:50 p.m.

I inquired about the possibility of kids being given a few minutes to eat a healthful snack brought from home -- it doesn’t take long for a hungry teen to inhale a cheese stick -- and was told by the principal that absolutely no eating before lunch was allowed.

When I pursued the issue with D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the principal suggested that my son come to her office every day for a granola bar. I did not feel that this was an acceptable solution for my son, who did not wish to be singled out, nor did it benefit the several hundred other children at the school.

All three of my kids are now in private schools, where morning snacks are either provided by the school or brought from home. Running the schools like prisons is another reason I took all three of my kids out of DCPS.

By Valerie Strauss  | November 18, 2009; 1:27 PM ET
Categories:  Community Colleges, D.C. Schools, Health  | Tags:  D.C. schools, eating in class  
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My daughter's lunch is not scheduled until 1pm. In addition, her lunch is scheduled after recess. She attends a public elementary school in Montgomery County. Her teacher suggested that each child bring a healthy snack from home. That way the kids will not be so hungry by the time they get to lunch time. This has worked well.

Posted by: soleil2000 | November 18, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

In my hs chemistry class, food and drink are not allowed in the classroom as it is a safety hazard.

Posted by: annwhite1 | November 18, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The principal of my school has forbidden snacks because we have a rodent problem (mice). But I routinely give out crackers if my students are working well and there are no behavior problems. I do it as a motivation and just buy my own box of crackers for the kids. I don't care what the policy is; if my students are hungry, I always have a little snack in my room and spend my own $ on it. As for the rodent problem, I make sure the kids don't drop any crumbs and we've never seen a mouse in my room.

Posted by: chelita | November 18, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but I don't hear a valid complaint here. It is not like the parent is complaining about a lack of academic rigor in the school, a lack of discipline, or a lack of structure. She is complaining that her child is not allowed to eat a cheese stick before lunch. Come on! If the principal let one child eat in the hallway and/or during classtime, he would have to let EVERY child eat in the hallway and during class, and then what would happen? You would have trash and crumbs all over the hallway and in classrooms, and you would have insect and rodent problems. That is not "running the school like a prison", it is called running the school with a reasonable set of expectations. Even schools in the suburbs have rules about eating before lunch. It sounds like the principal offered this parent a reasonable solution (letting the child come to his office for a granola bar, but for whatever reason the parent was still not satisfied. Complaints like this are the reason principals get paid a six-figure salary.

Posted by: thebandit | November 18, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

This is running a school like a prison and why so many teenagers hate school. The rodent reasoning is facetious, I hope. At my school, we ate whatever we wanted in the halls- even lunch.

Posted by: staticvars | November 18, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

I would be happy to let my high school students have a snack in my classroom. The only problem is they don't clean up after themselves. Which means I find the wrappers and leftovers in the desks at the end of the day. So I ban food from my classroom.

Posted by: ktksmom | November 19, 2009 5:03 AM | Report abuse

We have the opposite problem. My kids elementary school requires that we send in morning snacks. The problem is, we aren't a snacking family and my kids are not hungry at snacktime. They eat a good breakfast, and don't need to eat again 2 hours later. The problem is - they don't eat what I send in because they aren't hungry. Then I get notes from the teacher saying that I should send in junk food so my kids will eat their snack. I send in apples and raisins and stuff like that - items my kids choose at the store - but evidently the other parents send in Goldfish and Cheetos. The teachers, every year, are convinced that my kids don't eat their snacks because they don't have Goldfish. When I ask my kids later on, they tell me that they just aren't hungry at 10am.

Posted by: bkmny | November 19, 2009 6:19 AM | Report abuse

My high school solved this by allowing snacks during a 10-minute break at about 10:45, but with the snacks NOT to be eaten in the classrooms, only in a particular hallway. I agree that eating in the classroom can get out of control and cause vermin problems (it did in my children's school -- pretty soon teachers were also providing all kinds of sweets not just before lunch but all day long, as a form of crowd control. Bad idea.

Posted by: jane100000 | November 19, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I remember this issue from when I was in high school! School started at about 7:30 am; one year my lunch break did not occur until 1pm. Students were not allowed food or drinks outside the cafeteria. By the time that last class before lunch rolled around, I'd be feeling weak and lightheaded. Not conducive to learning.

Posted by: newengland1 | November 19, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

My mother had students from a rural area who sometimes got on the bus at 6:30 and didn't eat until 1:00. She finally told them they could bring snacks as long as the wrappers didn't cause a noise problem and they could be eaten in small bites so they didn't have a mouthful of food when she called on them. Within a few weeks the weekly grades began coming up and behavior problems dropped. Then she had to rescind the policy--the janitor found a dropped raisin on the floor and complained that it made too much work.

(At my elementary school we had a paved playground that produced a lot of injuries--it was originally dirt until the janitor asked the school board to have it paved so he didn't have to mop so often in wet weather.)

Posted by: opinionatedreader | November 19, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

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