Many people commenting on my recent school food opinion piece in the New York Times pointed to another factor which may hinder children’s acceptance of school meals – extremely short school lunch periods.
I agree, and in Monday’s TLT post I told you that my original draft of the Times piece had mentioned that the French school children in “Where to Invade Next” were given a leisurely hour in which to eat their meal. What I didn’t include in my draft is the fact that the food was actually brought to children’s table by the school’s chefs, who act as waiters during the meal. (!) This is all radically different from the situation in some American schools, where kids are allotted a mere twenty minutes to both get their food from the serving line and scarf it down.
But there’s another gloss on the too-short American lunch period that I wanted to raise with you today.
I live in Houston, and while we do experience a few bitter cold snaps here every winter, it’s temperate enough that some (stubborn) kids are known to wear shorts year-round. But in 2011, an Iowa law professor, Chris Liebig, guest blogged here about “The Incredible Shrinking Lunch Period” and that’s when I first heard of some schools actually making kids get fully outfitted for cold weather before their hurried lunch. So they not only have to gulp down their food, they have to do so while sweating in a snowsuit in a heated cafeteria.
I sort of forgot about this practice, but last night a reader left this comment on the blog:
Since my daughter started kindergarten 2 years ago she had had to wear ALL her outside clothes to lunch. We live in WI where winters are very cold so snow pants, hats, gloves, jacket and snow boots are essential for outside play. She packs on all of these item before she heads off to her 20 minute lunch. I can only imagine sitting in a 75 degree lunchroom with snow boots, Snow pants and jacket while having to scarf down her lunch in near minutes. When she started kindergarten I expressed concern to her teacher but with no amiss her teacher told me they have limited time so that is the school rule. Its horrible!! I cant imagine how many children go hungry because they are simply too warm to eat. I would like the school staff and principal to experience this “school rule” for 1 month and see how they feel. I would think this rule might change if the tables turned.
I understand that trying to get a roomful of kindergartners into snowsuits and boots must be hugely time-consuming, and I have a lot of sympathy for harried teachers. But I also agree with this commenter that if the adults at a school were required to eat lunch in a heated room while swathed in down and wool, they might suddenly find another way.
So, here are my questions for those of you living in cold climates: Does your child’s school require kids to get dressed for the outdoors before lunch? Do your kids complain about this practice? Have you ever raised it with your school’s administration?
I’d love to hear your experiences in a comment below.
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