Time Poor Students are Missing Out on Nutritious Lunches

The Lempert Report
October 16, 2015

Kids who have less time to eat lunch are not getting the nutrition they need.

With childhood obesity rates so high, a lot of attention is being paid to kids’ nutrition. And one new study points a finger at the issue of time. According to a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, most US school age kids don’t get much time for lunch, and by the time they wait in line and actually sit down to eat, they’re rushed. It’s this time crunch that researchers now say may be undermining good nutrition at school.

Researchers from Harvard studied about 1,000 students, grades 3 to 8, at lunch time in a low-income urban school district in Massachusetts, taking note of what students put on their trays and trackedwhat was left at the end of lunch period.

What they found was that kids who had less than 20 minutes to eat were consuming less of everything. Specifically,researchers saw those students eating 13 percent less of their main entree and 12 percent less of their vegetables. They drank 10 percent less milk, too, compared with students who had 25 minutes or more to eat. They also found more food waste among kids who had less time to eat.

Juliana Cohen, the study's lead author, said in a statement;"Many children, especially those from low-income families, rely on school meals for up to half their daily energy intake, so it is essential that we give students a sufficient amount of time to eat their lunches." According to NPR, in many public schools across America the school lunch hour has shrunk to just 15 minutes.

With this information in mind, supermarkets should be looking to help families with ideas to fuel kids throughout the day. With extra tips, meal ideas and guidance on packing a complete, nutritious lunch, more families might be inclined to brown bag it. With the school year now underway supermarkets should be highlighting with displays and promotions inexpensive, healthy options. And even if families still opt to buy lunch at school, supermarkets could be offering nutritious snack packs and small bites that students can use to supplement throughout the day.  With students getting busier and having to eat on the go, grocery stores should look to help families fill in this gap.