According to a recent report, 20-minute lunch periods may not be enough for kids to have a filling lunch in school cafeterias. Researchers found that children barely have any time to eat when arriving late or staying in line to be served.
Short lunch periods are not only affecting children’s overall health on the long run but they also lead to tons of perfectly edible food to be discarded.
A research team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston found that many kids end up with just 10 minutes to sit and consume their meals and 20 minute for lunch may not be enough.
Researchers noted that the phenomenon raises a health concern especially to kids from poor families that often take up to 50 percent of their daily energy intake at their schools’ cafeterias.
“It is essential that we give students a sufficient amount of time to eat their lunches,”
said Juliana Cohen senior author of the study and nutrition expert at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Eric Rimm, another author of the study, was puzzled that so little research was conducted on how effective the National School Lunch Program really is. According to background information, 30 million children in more than 100,000 benefit from the program.
During their research, Harvard scientists monitored 1,000 elementary and middle school students coming from low-income communities in Massachusetts. Researchers analyzed how much and what type of food children left on their plates after lunch period was over.
The team compared students who had 20 minutes at their disposal to eat with those who had 25 minutes. Study authors learned that the first group didn’t consume 13 percent of their main course, 12 percent less of their veggies, and 10 percent less of their diary products than their peers in the second group.
Moreover, children who had shorter lunch periods avoided picking fruits during their meal time and tended to leave more food untouched than kids who had more time at their disposal.
Researchers said that they were surprised with the findings. They expected shorter lunch periods to force kids to skip fruits and veggies and focus on the main course and milk. But the study showed that they tried to eat everything but there wasn’t enough time left.
While schools may not be able to fix lunch duration due to busy schedule, they could still prevent long serving lines in their cafeterias and make sure that kids do not arrive late to lunch.
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