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Ten minutes to munch lunch not enough time to feed young minds

Emily Dann and Susie O’Brien, May 3, 2022 7:00PM Kids News

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An extra five minutes to eat everything in their lunch box could help students concentrate better in class, according to researchers. Picture: file image media_cameraAn extra five minutes to eat everything in their lunch box could help students concentrate better in class, according to researchers. Picture: file image

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Primary schools are not giving students enough time to eat the food in their lunch box, a new study reveals.

Deakin University researchers have found children need at least 15 minutes to finish their lunch, but most primary schools only give students 10 minutes of eating time before being allowed to go out to play.

Student Kate Lancaster watching hour glass sand running out 26 Nov 1999. time media_cameraPrimary school students are not getting enough time to eat their packed lunch, according to new research from Deakin University. Researchers found most schools were only allowing 10 minutes for lunch. Picture: file image

Lead authors Dr Claire Margerison and Dr Melissa Burton said the research showed that children were more likely to finish what parents had packed in their lunch boxes when they were given more time to eat.

“With less time to eat, children are more likely to prioritise* the most appealing foods in their lunch box, such as the treats, which are often nutrient* poor,” Dr Burton said. “These findings not only have implications* for children’s health but also their ability to learn, as research tells us that good nutrition is necessary to help children thrive academically.”

Dr Margerison said the results revealed confusion between parents and teachers over who should be responsible for encouraging healthy eating, as well as who should oversee* the contents of their lunch boxes.

Eating Lunch media_cameraNew research shows that parents and teachers agree primary schools are not giving students enough time to finish eating the food in their lunch box. Kiara, 8, and Chloe, 5, have lots of healthy options to choose from. Picture: David Crosling

“About half of the parents and teachers surveyed said only parents and children should choose what food they eat at school, while one quarter of parents and one third of teachers believed that schools should have a responsibility to monitor food brought from home,” she said.

“Children spend so much of their time at school, the lines between what is the parent’s responsibility and what is the teacher’s responsibility is often blurred and these research findings certainly highlight some of those grey areas,” she said.

Eating Lunch media_cameraResearchers suggest that children will favour their treats first if they know they only have 10 minutes to eat, so many students may not be getting the nutrients they need to focus and learn in class. Picture: David Crosling

Although the study found most parents were open to suggestions about what foods should be brought to school, Dr Burton warned against relying on teachers for nutritional guidance.

“Teachers don’t have qualifications in nutrition; it can be confusing what is in processed foods,” she said.

“But what is clear is that giving children just five extra minutes to eat their lunch will be a very positive move and potentially increase their ability to focus on their learning.”

GLOSSARY

  • prioritise: when we decide something is more important or urgent than other things
  • nutrient: substance needed for healthy growth, development and function
  • implications: possible future effect, consequence or result of something done now
  • oversee: monitor, supervise, watch or manage

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the minimum time children need to eat all the food in their lunch box?
  2. How long are most primary schools giving students to eat their lunch?
  3. What do children tend to eat first if they don’t get enough time to finish?
  4. Aside from health, what else might improve if kids get more time to eat?
  5. What proportion of parents and teachers believe teachers have some responsibility to monitor what students at during school time?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Eating times
How long does your school give you to eat lunch?

Do you think it’s enough time to eat all the lunch packed in your lunch box?

Would an extra five minutes of eating time benefit you and other kids in your school?

Write a letter to your school principal outlining how long you think should be given to eat lunch and state your reasons why. Use the information in the Kids News article to support your reasons.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Do you think it is the teachers’ responsibility to monitor what their students bring in their lunch boxes? Write your reasons why or why not.

Draw a sketch of your ideal lunch box.

What does it look like, what food does it contain? Is it healthy and nutritious?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
To sum it up
After reading the article, use your comprehension skills to summarise in a maximum of three sentences what the article is about.

Think about:

What is the main topic or idea?

What is an important or interesting fact?

Who was involved (people or places)?

Use your VCOP skills to re-read your summary to make sure it is clear, specific and well punctuated.

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