My post a couple of months ago about the long lunch break that French kids get (between one and a half and two hours) elicited a lot of great responses. By Ministry of Education regulation, French children spend a minimum of 30 minutes eating (it’s often more), and then usually have at least an hour to play, if not more. Read the original post here.
Now that we’re back in Vancouver, my daughter’s lunch period is one hour long, including 10 minutes to eat. Yep, 10 minutes (from 12:00 to 12:10 in the school schedule, to be precise). Call me crazy, but I don’t think this is enough time.
Learning doesn’t stop in the lunchroom, in my opinion. If we are giving our children a slow lunch break, we are teaching them that food is an inconvenience, and eating is an interruption in the day. We encourage them to gobble their food, when the research shows that eating more slowly is healthier. In fact, the French spend longer eating, but eat less–in part because that ‘fullness feeling’ (satiety signal) needs about 20 minutes to get from your stomach to your brain. But the French also spend longer eating because they believe that it’s important to teach kids to eat well – it’s a life skill, like reading.
They also believe that eating is a wonderful social time which kids can enjoy (and that eating together creates a ‘positive peer pressure’ environment in which kids are more likely to eat well, and try new foods). Here’s a lovely quote from the school website in the town of Versailles (yes, home of the castle):
“Mealtime is a particularly important moment in a child’s day. Our responsibility is to provide children with healthy, balanced meals; to develop their sense of taste; to help children, complementing what they learn at home, to make good food choices without being influenced by trends, media, and marketing; and to teach them the relationship between eating habits and health. But above all else, we aim to enable children to spend joyful, convivial moments together, to learn a ‘savoir-vivre’ (which roughly translates as ‘know-how about life’, or ‘life skill’), to make time for communication, social exchange, and learning about society’s rules–so that they can socialize and cultivate friendships.”
Food for thought.
After chatting with Amber Strocel, she posted a thoughtful discussion of school lunches on her blog. She included some great ideas and examples of strategies that schools are using. Should we put playtime before lunchtime, so kids aren’t rushing out the door to the playground? Should we extend the lunch hour, or count part of the lunch break as instructional time for teachers? Check out her blog for some great ideas about what we might be doing differently. My next blog post will explore what we might do about this, focusing on what the Slow Food movement and the school reform movements might learn from one another.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts, and hopefully inspiring examples about what innovative things schools are doing to make that kids are learning how to eat well, as well as what to eat.