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Time for Lunch?

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Ever since school started two weeks ago, our first-grader has come home with at least 75 percent of his lunch still completely intact and untouched. (We’re wondering – where does he get all of his energy if he’s not eating? But that’s a side issue for the moment.) When we try to get to the root of the problem, his chief complaint is that he simply doesn’t have time to eat. The lunch break is a half-hour and it encompasses the eating time and the time for a bunch of squirrel-y 1st-grade boys to run around and get out all of their energy. Usually it’s the latter that takes precedence.

Concerned, we started to ask around among readers and friends in other schools across the country, and we learned that we were not alone. For one thing, lunchtime is just getting shorter. Numerous requirements and cutbacks in the rest of the school day have crowded out the lunch “hour.” Plus there are fewer opportunities for physical activity (i.e. P.E. classes) during the school day, so there’s a lot of pent-up energy by the time lunch/recess rolls around.

So what do you do if your kid never has enough time to eat lunch? Lucky for us, there’s a discussion about this very topic on Parent Hacks this week. Through some of the comments on that discussion, and from our own conversations, we’ve put together a list of suggestions for getting more food into your kid during the school day:

  • Cut food into small, bite-sized pieces. The food is easier to eat that way, and visually, it may appear more manageable to your little one.
  • Pack nutrient-dense foods (hard-boiled eggs, chopped grilled chicken, carrot sticks, or nuts if your school will allow them) instead of light snacks that won’t give them long lasting fuel (potato chips, puffed cheese or rice snacks).
  • Have your child assist in packing lunch – This will give them some control and will help you understand better what she is able to (or is more likely to) eat.
  • Be ready for them to have a large, hearty snack (or finish the remainder of their lunch) when they get home.
  • Make sure that the meals they are eating at home are nutritious and well-balanced to compensate for the lack of nutrition during the school day.

And remember – it’s only the beginning of the school year. There’s plenty of time to get your child settled in and adjusted to new, healthy routines.

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2 Responses to Time for Lunch?

  1. Beth September 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Jeanne,
    We are having the same issue here with our 2nd grader. First, her lunch isn’t until 1:05, which I think is ridiculous for her age, but when all the grades have to eat too, what can the school really do? I just have to be sure she eats a power-breakfast. Secondly, she tells me that the lunch aides are shooing them outside as fast as she can crack open her bag. Our solution was the purchase of a one piece, folding bento-ish container that has a space big enough for a sandwich and two smaller (but still big enough to hold a small apple) compartments, and load up on the finger food. And as your article suggests, if lunch can’t be finished then it becomes her afterschool snack. We have discussed talking too much and that lunch is for eating, but really I think the problem is that there just isn’t enough time allotted. It is a shame.

    • jollytomato September 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

      Thanks, Beth! 1:05 sounds really late for a 2nd grader! But that reminds me of another problem I’ve heard people complaining about, which is that schools need to push the lunch crowds quickly through the cafeteria in order to have time to accommodate everyone in a too-small space. Is that something that’s going on at your school? Anyway, thanks for checking in…keep on sending those “power” lunches! – Jeanne

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