I was dreading sending my daughter off for her first day of school for all the usual reasons and then one you may not have on your mind. Or maybe you do? Do you feel like school is making our kids increasingly unhealthy?
I say this after having seen on the news just last night that an overcrowded school in the New York City area has turned to giving kids "school brunch" instead of school lunch. It's the nice way of saying that these middle school kids are being forced to eat their lunch at the bizarre hour of 9:45 a.m.
The school is defending its strange lunch schedule with the typical "but we're overcrowded" and the disturbing (especially if it's true) "well, these kids aren't eating breakfast anyway."
OK, that's all well and good. But what happens after their "brunch" break, when these kids are sent back to class with hour after hour of sitting ahead of them? Here's betting their stomachs will be growling sooner rather than later, leaving them unable to concentrate on their school work. Not to mention, when they do leave school, they will be more likely to scarf down excess amounts of food to fill the gaping hole in their bellies.
Last year my little cousin was in second grade, and his mother was not allowed to pack an afternoon snack for him. His teacher simply did not allow for the class to take time out of their day to eat, not even a peanut-free healthy snack. It stymied my aunt who has tried to raise her kids to eat several small but healthy meals through the day, tried to teach them that food is to fuel the body, not something we gorge ourselves on because we wait until the very last second when we can't take it anymore to eat.
Dismal eating habits are inevitable in a country where the emphasis on testing has made teachers and administrators greedy to squeeze as much academic time out of the school day that they possibly can. I feel for them. But these strange eating patterns, the move to chop away at recess time, sometimes taking it away entirely, is harmful to kids.
Our schools keep our kids trapped in their seats for most of the day and then set them up for a life of poor eating habits. No wonder have a childhood obesity crisis on our hands in this country.
What kind of exercise and eating opportunities exist in your child's school?
Image via USDAgov/Flickr