Parents of some Seattle schools students say their kids are coming home hungry with full lunch boxes because they don’t have enough time for lunch and recess.
Parents and students from across the district plan to protest at district headquarters Wednesday before demanding the district restore lunch and recess times cut back in recent years.
Sascha Demerjian is the mother of a 4th grader at Whittier Elementary School in northwest Seattle.
“A lot of kids are having to choose between finishing their lunches and going to recess,” she says.
Demerjian and other parents say the entire block is just 30 minutes, leaving many with little time to eat and play before returning to class.
“It’s inherently unfair and unhealthy, it’s just not enough time to work with,” she says. “I don’t think it should be an either or for children.”
Demerjian says those students who choose hot lunches, especially those participating in the Free & Reduced Meal program or who have disabilities, suffer the most.
A parents group founded to promote the increase in recess and lunch time says the American Association of Pediatrics recommends children have 20 minutes of seated lunchtime to eat their food. Seattle Public Schools’ lunch policy also requires children be given 20 minutes of seated lunchtime — with more time as needed for standing in line.
But the group says it has learned many schools are not compliant with the policy.
“It is a time where they are socializing and learning and not just blowing off steam and getting their wiggles out. This is a more serious activity. Play is work for kids and when we cut back on that not only do we have kids who can’t focus in the classroom but kids who aren’t learning to socialize properly,” she says.
Demerjian speculates the schools have cut back on lunch and recess to meet increasing academic pressures and squeeze more instruction into the day.
A spokesperson says the district takes the parents concerns seriously and is continuing to look into lunch and recess times at the schools and will address it Wednesday at the school board meeting.