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It's Time to Rethink School Lunches
박시현 강남포스트 학생기자 | 승인 2022.05.18 21:18

The school lunch bell rings, and the race is on. Throwing my books into my bag, I rush out of the classroom to fight my way through a whirlpool of students all heading in different directions. After scurrying up the staircases and grabbing my books for my next class from the end of the hallway, it's time to zip through quick hellos, harmless shoulder bumps, and teachers who sternly shout "walk!" I make it to the cafeteria only to find myself at the end of a line that starts from one end and meanders its way past the water fountain and around a corner. Finally, I can eat with 10 minutes of my 30-minute lunch already evaporated.

School lunches are very important; it's probably why school lunches have been a topic of debate in the country since General Hershey stressed its importance and helped spur the introduction of the National School Lunch Act of 1946. However, so much of the debate on school lunches was and still is focused on nutrition. Yes, nutrition is vital, but so is time.  

According to Juliana Chan, a professor at Harvard Chan School, "[the] length of the school lunch period is a key factor in how much nutrition children actually get." On average, it is reported that students with 20 minutes or less for lunch get 13% fewer entrees, 12% fewer vegetables, and 10% less milk than students with at least 25 minutes.  

School lunches have definitely been improving in terms of nutrition thanks to initiatives such as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. But what is the use of more nutritious lunches if students don't get a chance to eat what's on their tray? Short lunchtimes become even more problematic when one factors in how vital school lunches are for many low-income students' nutrition. Nutrition experts state that low-income students rely on school lunches for up to half their daily energy intake. Furthermore, students who are rushed are less likely to pick fruit, are more likely to gain weight, and create unnecessary food waste.  

Fortunately, it's not all gloom and doom. Some schools around the country are rolling out a different approach to lunch, from grab-and-go packaged lunches to lunch cards that replace cash. Certain school districts in San Francisco are testing slower family-style lunches at round tables and continue to ask students for input.   Others have combined recess and lunch to create a larger block of time in which students have more freedom to manage how they eat their lunch. 

With students returning to classrooms, it might be good to start rethinking school lunches.

 

 

 

박시현 강남포스트 학생기자  webmaster@ignnews.kr

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