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School Lunch Study Finds Longer Lunches Are Healthier For Students

Students aren’t being given enough time to eat their food, according to a Harvard study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics.

When pressed for time, students were found to be more likely to skip the healthy options on their plate such as fruit and vegetables.

In the study, lunchtime leftovers were examined in order to determine if a correlation exists between the time students have to eat and how much they actually consume.

Our aim was to examine plate-waste measurements from students in the control arm of the Modifying Eating and Lifestyles at School study (2011 to 2012 school year) to determine the association between amount of time to eat and school meal selection and consumption.

Just over a thousand elementary and middle school students from a low-income school district were studied. Some of the children were given 20 minutes to eat, while others were given half an hour.

The study found that children who were given the shorter period of time were 13 percent less likely to select a fruit. The study found no difference in the likelihood of an entrée, milk, or vegetable to be selected, but did find between 10 percent and 13 percent more leftovers when students of these foods when the students had less than 25 minutes to consume the meal.

“We were surprised by some of the results,” stated Eric Rimm, the study’s senior author, to the Harvard Gazette. “I expected that with less time children may quickly eat their entrée and drink their milk but throw away all of their fruits and vegetables.”

We were surprised by some of the results because I expected that with less time children may quickly eat their entrée and drink their milk but throw away all of their fruits and vegetables.  Not so — we found they got a start on everything, but couldn’t come close to finishing with less time to eat.

Instead, the conclusion made by the study was that students simply would run out of time before they were able to finish eating what they had on their tray.

The researchers have recommended that schools give students at least 25 minutes of lunch time — sitting down — to improve the issues of food waste and students’ dietary intake.

In August, another study found that students are being forced to start school far too early in the morning.

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