At one local elementary school, the lunch line is a dreaded line that no student wants to wait in. Why? By the time you finally get your lunch, the bell rings and the teachers come in to get you to go back to class. What did you get to eat? The tater tot that was rolling off your tray while in line? A sip of milk? Nothing?
The lunch line is so long because of one reason: The amount of students in line. The school has 54 percent of free and reduced lunch candidates. Therefore, these students are getting the cafeteria lunch that is provided to them. For some students, this is the only meal they have had all day and it’s already 12:00 p.m. When they finally get to their table, the dreaded noon duty is already trying to rush them out the door to recess because another line of students has started to gather in the hallway.
Schools need to realize that a hungry child is a child who is too focused on food and their rumbling bellies to learn anything in class. School is designed to be an institution of learning, but children cannot learn if they are hungry. The focus doesn’t need to be on eating all day instead of learning, but educators need to realize that lunchtime is cut short because of many factors and those factors need to be taken into consideration in making the schedule or recess time.
Administrators need to spend one day in the lunchroom and realize that students need time to eat. When they are finished eating, they should be allowed to go to recess. At this school, there is such a strict schedule that students go to lunch at 11:55 a.m. They first go to recess until 12:15. Then all of the third graders go to the lunch line to get their lunches. They have 25 minutes to get through the line, eat and socialize before a teacher get there at 12:40 p.m. The problem with this type of schedule is that if students are at the end of the line, their teacher is coming to the lunchroom as they are just sitting down.
Something needs to change. When we go to a restaurant, we are not rushed by the waiter to hurry up and eat because we are only allowed 15 minutes to eat, are we? No. Then why are we rushing our students at lunchtime?