When Judie Schneider picks up her son from school, she often worries that he’ll be “hangry,” or in a bad mood because he didn’t eat enough during the day.
But it’s not because he forgot his lunch or didn’t like the food that he’s hungry, it’s because he doesn’t have enough time to eat, according to Schneider, who says her son’s lunch break is only 15 to 17 minutes long.
“Since kindergarten, I always felt frustrated that he didn’t have enough time to eat, but thought that it was just because he was a slow eater,” Schneider said about her son, who is now in Grade 4.
“Over the years it has come to my knowledge that it’s not just slow eaters that aren’t finishing their lunches, it’s pretty much across the board.”
Schneider explained that, at her son’s school, they have a “play first” model where students spend time playing outside before eating their lunch. However, they are the only given 15 to 17 minutes to come inside, wash their hands, collect their lunch, settle down and eat.
“Parents have been telling me that it’s normal for them to have their children’s lunch box brought home pretty much half full and when they ask their children what happened, they say they didn’t have enough time,” Schneider said.
Now, through an online petition that currently has over 3,400 signatures, Schneider is asking the province to mandate longer lunch breaks and require adult supervision during eating times.
“I would like all of the parents in B.C. to come together and say ‘enough is enough’ and that our children deserve to eat their lunch at school, not after school,” she said.
While she understands it could be tough for teachers who also deserve a break, Schneider says she would like to see teacher supervision during eating times. She said perhaps eating time could be used for reading stories or for implementing some of the new mental health curriculum so that provincially-mandated educational hours aren’t sacrificed. In her petition, Schneider also recommends that outdoor playtime be extended to ensure teachers still get their full break.
Under the petition, Andrew Scallion, vice president of the Richmond District Parents Association gave his support saying, “I have heard from many, many parents of their frustration with too short eating breaks. This is an extremely important issue and I urge every parent to sign and share this petition.”
For Schneider, these changes to lunch time breaks just might improve educational time as well.
“Children who are hungry cannot concentrate, cannot learn and they can’t participate in class properly,” Schneider said. “It affects their mood for the rest of the day.”