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Posted at 2:44 PM ET, 10/19/2009

Obama and sensible school lunch schedules

By Valerie Strauss

When President Obama made a surprise visit today to Viers Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring to share a meal with third- and fifth-graders, he picked a school that has reasonable lunch schedule for its kids.

The school says that its students have 30 minutes to eat their lunch every day. That seems like a reasonable time for kids to eat and have a little time for their food to start to digest.

But there are plenty of other schools where kids have 15 or 20 minutes to eat. And, making matters worse, I’ve heard of students with schedules that set lunchtime before 11 a.m.

Viers Mill was chosen by Obama because it was the first school in the Montgomery County Public School system in Maryland with a large population of low-income students that was awarded, in 2005, a National Blue Ribbon for significantly closing the achievement gap.

Somehow the kids have time to eat lunch AND get good standardized test scores (which is how the achievement gap is measured). I wonder why all schools can't give their kids enough time to eat lunch.

When does your child have lunch at school, and how much time is given to eat? Do you think it is enough?

By Valerie Strauss  | October 19, 2009; 2:44 PM ET
Categories:  Health  | Tags:  President Obama, Viers Mill Elementary School, school lunch  
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My kids have had lunch scheduled before and after 11am over the past 6 years in elementary school. And have had no more than 20 min. to eat, because they needed to move that group out of the lunch room to get the next group in. As a former teacher, I was amazed when they told me they didn't have time to eat and I assumed that it was because they were talking or goofing off. Twenty min. is still not enough time to get their food, sit down and then eat. Learning how to have a meal with others is something that many students might only learn at school and rushing them through it seems foolish. Let them eat and talk and socialize for at least 25 min. before you run them out to recess.

Posted by: jdbruin | October 19, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

My kids have lunch at ok-ish times (11:15 for one, 12:40 for the other), but lunch is always scheduled for right before recess. What is with that? What happens is that the kids wait 10 minutes in the lunch line, then gobble down their food in 5 minutes (or don't really eat at all), so they can get out to recess early. I can't even see how this is healthy. Usually people eat AFTER exercising, not the other way around.

Posted by: bkmny | October 20, 2009 6:22 AM | Report abuse

What concerns me more than the length of time alloted for lunch is the span of time between breakfast and lunch. In most DC public schools, snacks are absolutely prohibited (e.g. Deal Middle School); many middle school or high school kids take public transportation, leaving their homes at 7:30 am or earlier. Some lunch periods start as late as 12:50. That's a long, long time to go without food -- especially for teens, whose bodies are growing at the same rate as 2-year-olds (who we all agree need snacks!)

In contrast, I notice that most private schools INSIST that kids bring healthful morning snacks.

Clearly, one of them hasn't got it right.

Posted by: trace1 | October 20, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

My daughter ( 4th grade in Montgomery County Public School) has lunch scheduled at 1pm (after recess). She is only given 20 minutes to eat. One day she fell on the playground and hit her head at recess and needed to go to the nurse and consequently didn't get lunch at all because lunch was over before she got released from the nurse's office. I reminded her she can speak up and tell the nurse she hasn't had lunch next time.

On the other hand, since lunch is so late for her class, her teacher has told each student to bring a healthy snack to school to help tide them over until lunch.

My son ( 2nd grade same school) eats at around noon. He also only has 20 minutes. He always complains that he doesn't have enough time to eat enough. He is always hungry. I definitely think the short lunch times are harder on kids but I can see why with high enrollment and a small cafeteria, the school needs to try to cycle everyone through.

Posted by: soleil2000 | October 20, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Between hosting lavish dinners, flying around the world on Campaign Junkets and ignoring his Commanders in the field, I'm glad he had time to share a lunch with a bunch of kids and then spend his time talking about one of the biggest travesties in this nation....

....Lunch Schedules....

Can we say "Priorities"?

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | October 20, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Lunch at my school, Little Rock Central High is bad. Second lunch is okay because it is at 12 to 12:30 but first lunch is the worst. First lunch starts at 10:26 and ends at 10:54. Eating lunch at 10:26 is ridiculous in my opinion because by the time students get into fourth period ( last block of the day ) they are already starving. Some students have to go straight to a sport, after school activity, or work right after school. Eating lunch during the morning is in my opinion bad for the students and should be changed.

Posted by: robinsonclrch | October 20, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Our school day begins at 7:30 a.m. this year (20 minutes earlier than last year). We have 3 lunch shifts. The first lunch shift starts at 10:45 a.m. and students have 23 minutes to go through the lunch line and eat. Generally, the line takes 5-8 minutes-- or longer if a particular station is popular that day. The last lunch finishes at 12:45.

Posted by: Swimmer2 | October 20, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The lunch times should be the least of our's the menus that are deplorable. They are not healthy.

French fries with pizza? Pizza 3 times a week. Choice of mac and cheese or tacos? Cooked, mushy spinach. Kale? How many kids do you know that eat cooked spinach or kale? "Grilled" cheese sandwiches that are hard as a rock and crumble when bitten into. Canned fruit. Nachos with processed cheese. Over-cooked broccoli. Porkettes. What is a porkette?
Nasty chicken fingers yesterday, tiny chicken nuggets today (leftovers cut-up?) Something I had to ask yesterday what it was....potatoes? Something white and lumpy. Disgusting fried rice. Hamburgers that I question if it is "real" meat. Horrible, cold egg rolls. Hot? Forget it.

They seldom have spaghetti or even soup. What about home-made rolls? Tuna sandwiches? Chicken salad? Sloppy Joe's? Fresh vegetables and kids loved that with their dinner. Salads with fresh lettuce or fresh fruit? Forget it.

I know things are tight, but, where do these people get their nutrition degrees? I firmly believe that a little more time and effort should be put into school lunches, sprinkled with some more funding.

But the breakfast's are even worse...and what's really shameful...for some kids...its the best they get!!!

Posted by: ilcn | October 20, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

When I was in fifth grade, we had a lesson on health andthe importance of washing your hands before you ate. We then went to lunch, and all of the girls went down the stairs to the basement and instead of going down the hall to the lunch line we all turned unto the girls' restroom and washed our hands. Another teacher came in right after us, scolded us for "playing in the bathroom," and told us to get in the lunch line because we were holding up her class! Those students are now the grandparents of today's students who have to be given extra lessons in washing their hands so they won't get swine flu.

Posted by: opinionatedreader | October 20, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse


Hello? Can you put your blind hatred for Obama aside for just a minute and read Ms. Strauss' blog? She did not say that Obama talked about lunch schedules. You just pulled that from the ether. Down, buddy, down.

Posted by: trace1 | October 20, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

My kindergartner starts school at 8 a.m. and eats lunch at 10 for 20 minutes before heading out to 20 minute recess. They have another recess in the afternoon at 1:40 and they have a snack that we send before they can play.

Posted by: mnm31 | October 21, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

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