Short Lunches Are Unhealthy Lunches

September 30, 2015

Have you ever felt as if you never have enough time to eat your lunch? Do you find that you always have to run to the cafeteria to avoid the inevitable long lunch lines, only to find yourself waiting ten minutes for your food? Now with only 15-20 minutes you have to find a seat with your friends and manage to finish your meal. Did you know this was an unhealthy system that can cause nutritional problems down the road? In order to receive a nutritional meal at lunch we need more time than the Baltimore County regulated 30 minutes because students need more than 15-20 minutes to eat healthy options.  The long lines at the cafeteria decrease much-needed time to eat and thus students tend to spend more time socializing when time is scarce.

Research has made positive correlations between short lunch periods and unhealthy meal choices. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietaries conducted a yearlong study of multiple public schools in low income urban areas. This location was specifically chosen because children in these areas often receive most of their nutrition through lunch meals. In the study, researchers compared meal choices and meal consumption between schools with 20-30 minute lunch periods. The study revealed that children with less than 20 minutes of eating time, decided to pick a fruit a mere 44% of the time. This result is slightly lower than those with at least 25 minutes who chose a fruit 57% of the time. The significant difference came in meal consumption. According to the study, those with less than 20 minutes to eat consume “13% of their entrée, 10% less of their milk, and 12% less of their vegetables” compared to those with more than 25 minutes to eat. A diet of this kind can spell a variety of future health problems.

Standing in that lunch line is worse than sitting on the highway after three inches of snow and two accidents. Sitting in that hot line with about eleven or twelve other people within three feet of you for about 5-10 minutes is absolutely terrible, nearly inhuman. The only way you can avoid the lunch room madness is to sprint to the cafeteria to get to the front of the line. After being asked about the inevitable wait, Shatira Williams (’17) had some words to share: “It absolutely sucks. I hate having to buy lunch. It seems as if I never am able to get out of the line.” Last Thursday I attended my normal A-Lunch and timed how long it took for me to get to the register. It took a stunning 9 minutes and 47 seconds, nearly 10 minutes! With all the time it had taken for me to get my lunch, it was hard to tell I had arrived at the cafeteria only 2 minutes after the bell. By the time I had placed my bags down at my table, half of the cafeteria it seems was already packed into 2 lines the length of I-95.

Children of all ages are social creatures. Whether it’s young toddlers or adolescence close to leaving for college, we love to socialize with each other. In a school system where socializing with your fellow peer is a punishable crime; we adolescents need a time where we are free to socialize to our hearts content. That is where our standard lunch period comes into play. Students often spend their time in the cafeteria talking with friends they possibly have not seen all day. A conversation between friends often gets in the way of eating because of the mass amount of time consumption in a normal conversation. Jamie Baldwin (’17) elaborates with her opinion: “Half the time I don’t even eat. The main reason I go to lunch is to talk to my friends and before I know it, the bell rings. I just throw whatever food I had left away.” Does that sound she had a very nutritionally balanced meal?

Our lunch periods are too limited in the current system we use. Kids that depend on their lunch room meals because they reside in low income families are suffering and receive most of their nutrition from their choices in the cafeteria. If Baltimore County plans to sustain a healthy population within their school systems they should consider adjusting the lunch period standards.

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