Children Forced to Choose Between Eating Lunch and Recess


Twenty five-ish years ago when I was in Elementary School we had three recesses per day. One mid-morning for 30 minutes, one after lunch for a little longer, and one in the afternoon for another 30 minutes. We played a lot. We ran a lot. We were able to sit more still in the classroom because of it.

Fast forward to today, and my 7 year old son gets ONE recess per day, at lunchtime. The amount of time he gets to play is dependent on how quickly he eats his lunch. They have 45 minutes to get to the cafeteria, get their lunches out, socialize with friends, eat their lunch and clean up after themselves. When that’s done, they can go and play. My son is lucky to get in 20 minutes of free play time per day. Because of this restriction of time, he literally scarfs down his lunch because he wants to play. That, or he simply leaves half of his lunch in his lunch bag. I can’t tell you how much wasted food we have gone through because he simply does not have time to eat it. It also worries me that the most he eats most days is a few bites of his sandwich. The children who have to stand in line to buy school lunches have even less time. Our children are being forced to choose between eating or playing, and as a parent it makes me very sad and frustrated.

I know I am not alone in my frustrations. Deb Escher, a Seattle WA mom told Q13 Foxth News that she is hosting a meeting with other concerned parents from Whittier Elementary who say their kids just don’t have enough time for lunch and recess.

Recently their school district shortened their lunch from 40 minutes to 30 minutes. During that time they are expected to eat their lunch, and if they have time after they are done they may go outside for recess. Many children can not eat that quickly and are forced to choose between eating all of their lunch or going outside to play.

“Telling the kids that they need to choose between finishing their lunches or getting one of their very short recesses during the day to socialize with friends is not a healthy option for the kids,” Escher said to Fox Q13.

“This may be their only opportunity for a free and nutritious meal during the day and those kids only get 5 minutes to scarf it down? Or miss their recess so they have the chance to finish it? That’s just inhumane,” Escher said.

I understand that schools are required a certain number of hours of instruction time, but I can also say as a mom who has volunteered in my childrens’ classroom’s throughout the years there is plenty of stagnant and free time in these classrooms. It is not all instruction time. It’s time that our children could be playing outside…or eating their lunches.

These moms have started a Facebook page called Lunch & Recess Matter.

How much time does your child get for recess? Do you think it’s appropriate?


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