Our kids can eat lunch in 15 minutes, but should they? New Westminster District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) wants to double the eating time for elementary and middle school children from 15 minutes to 30 minutes so that our kids can have more time to chew.
Currently, students have 15 minutes to eat their lunch, but as I understand it, that time is supposed to include washing up before eating, clearing away lunch kits at the end and getting coats & shoes on for playtime afterwards. Even if washing up & donning boots takes only 5 minutes (and I would guess it’s longer for 30 small fry in a small space), that only leaves 10 minutes to eat – and no time for talking.
It may sound like a small issue given the complicated stuff SD40 is wrestling with, but it’s not just about placating Poky Penelopes and Slow-eater Peters (and their helicopter parents). There are good reasons to believe that a 15-minute eating period is not only uncomfortably short (do you take only 15 minutes for lunch? I sure don’t) but also has some potentially serious impacts on kids’ health and ability to learn in class.
In a letter of support for DPAC, former Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health Dr. John Blatherwick writes:
In this time when we realize that the link between obesity and poor health needs a concerted effort by our entire community, it makes sense for the New Westminster School Board to consider the research that [DPAC Vice-chair MaryAnn Mortensen] has put together showing an optimal lunch eating time between 24 and 35 minutes. It becomes obvious that a 45 minute lunch break is insufficient.
We need time for students to wash up, eat, relax and PLAY during their lunch break. If we need a minimum of 24 minutes for them to eat, it is obvious that a 45 minute period means something is dropped. Often this is eating (which leads to poor class room outcomes in the afternoon), washing up (which leads to health problems), relaxing (poor afternoon education outcomes) and PLAYING (both poor education outcomes and health problems).
The New Westminster School Board is in the education business. And good education outcomes come with good health outcomes…As the former School Medical Health Officer for New Westminster School District, I strongly urge the Board to NOT put this issue aside for another year. Health and education outcomes will suffer. This is an issue to address now.
As Blatherwick mentions in the last paragraph, this issue will be discussed at tonight’s school board meeting. Those with strong opinions on the issue may want to speak out at the meeting at 7:30pm at City Hall tonight.
What do you think? Should School District 40 extend the eating period for students? If so, how do you think the district should adjust the school day so that teaching and playing time aren’t impacted?