School Lunch Should Be a Dining Experience

Filed under: In The News

primary school cafeteriaA few months into the first grade, I realized that my kid was having a problem at school. Lunch. Every morning I would fill Ellie's lunch box up -- and every afternoon I would find it almost completely untouched. She might drink the juice, but that was it.

It wasn't because she didn't like my food. She just found the whole experience of cafeteria eating chaotic, stressful and ultimately unappetizing.

Pile all the noise, mess and often unidentifiable smells wafting through the room to an ever-shrinking lunch period. In the same way that schools are trading away recess for more classroom time, many are also trimming lunch. This mad dash to chow down creates an atmosphere akin to a hot dog eating contest.

And this, according to South Beach Diet doc, Arthur Agatston, MD, is not only bad for the digestion, it is robbing our kids of an opportunity to learn how to eat -- properly.
"The lunchroom culture is fast food," says Dr. Agatston. "But it shouldn't be fast food. The teacher should be sitting at the table with a tablecloth for a civilized meal. I think it's a huge learning opportunity for kids."

Is he completely out-of-touch? Not to me. Why shouldn't kids be allowed -- no, required -- to eat at school in the same way we expect them to eat at our own dining tables? Slowly and civilly. And for those kids who don't eat this way at home, this might be their best shot at acquiring those skills.

Ellie is now in second grade at a very small school that doesn't even have a cafeteria. Hot lunches are prepared off site and the children eat in their classrooms. While they still have just a half an hour to eat, the smaller setting has changed everything for her. Lunch time is quiet and calm and presided over by a teacher eating her own lunch. Today, the only thing left in Ellie's lunch box was her napkin.

Should schools provide students a positive dining experience?
Yes, eating lunch should be treated as another skill to be mastered.255 (90.4%)
No, lunch is little more than a necessary interruption to the educational process.27 (9.6%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.