Scheduling school lunch later in the day could help children to eat more nutritious foods and reduce food waste, according to a study at seven schools in Utah. Researchers found that children threw away more food when they ate lunch before recess instead of afterward, and much of the food they threw away was fruits and vegetables, Roberto A. Ferdman writes for The Washington Post.
Cornell University and Brigham Young University researchers spent 14 days studying the behavior of children during lunch. Three schools served lunch after recess, and the other four before recess. The researchers kept track of how many fruits and vegetables children discarded and how many they ate.
"Students who ate lunch after recess ate 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who ate it before," Ferdman reports. The number of students who ate at least one serving of fruit and vegetables was 45 percent greater at the schools that served lunch after recess than the schools who served it beforehand. This is because students are hungrier for lunch after playing, and if they have already had recess, they will not rush eating their lunch so they can go play.
"If recess is held before lunch, students come to lunch with healthy appetites and less urgency and are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables," David Just, one of the study's authors, told Ferdman.
A 2014 study also concluded, for about the same reasons, that providing lunch before recess leads to more food waste. It is unknown how many schools currently serve lunch before recess, but in 2011, only 4.6 percent of elementary schools reported serving lunch after recess. (Read more)