Kickball, then the cafeteria

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Turns out, Montana leads the way in "getting all of the wiggles out" of students, as one teacher puts it, before they eat their school lunch. The New York Times reported last week on Montana's "Recess Before Lunch" program, a simple scheduling shift that's fostering better behavior, better nutrition, and less food waste.

Tara Parker-Pope writes:

In Montana, state school officials were looking for ways to improve children’s eating habits and physical activity, and conducted a four-school pilot study of “recess before lunch” in 2002. According to a report from the Montana Team Nutrition program, children who played before lunch wasted less food, drank more milk and asked for more water. And as in Arizona, students were calmer when they returned to classrooms, resulting in about 10 minutes of extra teaching time.

One challenge of the program was teaching children to eat slower. In the past, children often finished lunch in five minutes so they could get to recess. With the scheduling change, cafeteria workers had to encourage them to slow down, chew their food and use all the available time to finish their lunch.

Today, about one-third of Montana schools have adopted “recess before lunch,” and state officials say more schools are being encouraged. “The pilot projects that are going on have been demonstrating that students are wasting less food, they have a more relaxed eating environment and improved behavior because they’re not rushing to get outside,” said Denise Juneau, superintendent of the Office of Public Instruction. “It’s something our office will promote to schools across the state as a best practice.”

Click here for more information on the Montana Office of Public Instruction's "Recess Before Lunch" program.

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