Today I had a terrific meeting with City Council Member and Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger and his staff about the importance of lengthening the amount of time children have to eat their lunches.
By way of background, children in New York City do not have enough time to eat their lunches; the consequences include obesity, lack of proper socialization, poor mood and behavior, and lower fruit and vegetable consumption.
Between traveling to and from the cafeteria, standing in line for food, and including recess time (for elementary schools) it is estimated that many children only have between 10 and 15 minutes to eat their entire lunch. In NYC it is more like 6 to 9 minutes, in particular for those children who wait in line as opposed to those who bring lunch from home. Short lunchtimes and rushed eating have been associated with detrimental effects on students, including obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 20 minutes for lunch, beginning when students sit down with their food, allowing enough time to socialize and finish their meals, but also enough time to notice when they are full. Lengthening the time schoolchildren have to eat affords them time to make healthy choices and get proper nutrition before returning to class.
The impact of a longer lunch time includes better health, mood, grades, behavior, socialization — we don’t want kids to learn to shove food in their mouths. Meals can be a time of gratitude and socialization!
Given the positive impact of longer lunch times, 11 states have already implemented legislation to improve existing obesity reduction policies, by specifically defining and requiring a minimum time available for students to eat. I would like to see NYC to enact a similar mandate for meal times at schools.
Today, Council Member Treyger agreed to prioritize this issue and to highlight its importance to the health and success of our children. While this issue of length of lunch time falls under state control, Treyger has agreed to help highlight the issue and urge the state to act.
His office will be putting in a legislative request for a reporting bill requiring DOE to share length of lunch times in all schools;
His office will also begin drafting a Resolution urging the state to require DOE to offer children a minimum amount of time for seated lunch (the state already has imposed a minimum time for physical education so the precedent is there); and
His team will reach out to NYC State Senator and Chair of the Education Committee John C. Liu as a co-sponsor of the resolution and to urge him to bring this issue to Albany's attention.
More updates to come on this important issue!