Let Them Eat. Let Them Play. Let Them Learn.

By United Way of King County, on November 14, 2014 | In Helping Students Graduate

If you are anything like me – you get pretty cranky on those days when you are stuck at your desk without time to eat or move around. Imagine if you were trying to learn to read or do long division? Kids who are hungry, unfocused, and full of wiggles aren’t ready to learn. But that is exactly what is happening as many Seattle school children are seeing shrinking time for eating and recess.

Kids are coming home with full lunch boxes, empty bellies, and without the recommended amount of physical activity. Parents are not happy and are not standing still. More than 1,200 joined a Facebook group to share pictures of their kid’s uneaten meals and stories of shoveling food in the few minutes that have to eat and nearly 100 showed up at a school board meeting last week to express their concerns. The effort was launched by a Ballard mom after the lunch and recess period at her school shrunk to 30 minutes (total). She was especially concerned about the children who rely on free and reduced priced school meals – they have to wait in line for meals which further reduces the amount of time to eat.

And Seattle isn’t alone. Increased focus on academics and scheduling challenges make it difficult for schools to find enough time for everything. Seattle’s Child reports that at the school board meeting last week, Pegi McEvoy, the district’s assistant superintendent for operations, said its ability to set school schedules is complicated by a variety of factors, including required educational instructional times, increasing graduation requirements, union contracts, more students, limited lunchroom capacity and the length of the school day. Sounds like adult problems are hurting our kids.

So what can you do?

  1. Talk to the children in your family about how much time they have for eating and recess. If it isn’t sufficient, talk to your school.
  2. Join the movement. Join the Facebook group and sign this petition calling for a school recess policies.
  3. Help kids start the day off right with Breakfast after the Bell. Support the development of programs that make breakfast part of the school day, just like lunch.

We know that rigorous academics are important – but they are only successful if the kids are healthy, hunger-free and prepared to learn. We shouldn’t let adult problems get in the way of helping kids eat, play, and learn.


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