A frequent complaint from parents is that their children don’t have enough time to finish their lunch at school. Now, one of the state’s newest lawmakers has introduced legislation to try to figure out the barriers to giving students sufficient time to eat.
My-Linh Thai was elected in the fall as a Democratic representative for parts of eastern King County, including Bellevue. She used to be on the Bellevue School Board and said the issue of students not having enough time to finish lunch has long been on her radar. Thai said she’s heard from lots of parents about this.
“By the end of the day, when they pick up the students or when their students get home, parents realize they barely touched their food,” she said.
In the 2016-17 school year, the Bellevue School District reduced elementary school lunch times to 20 minutes from 25 minutes. In response to parent complaints, the district restored the 25-minute lunch time the following school year. District spokesman Michael May said administrators also worked on ways to speed up lunch lines to make sure students had enough time to eat.
Thai’s bill would require the state superintendent’s office to choose six public schools to serve as demonstration sites. The schools would evaluate procedures for making sure students have 20 minutes of seated lunch time to consume their food. The schools will then report their recommendations.
Thai said giving students enough time to eat is critical to making sure they’re able to progress in their schoolwork.
“Many of us still think that school is the place where we put academics as top priority and I don’t argue with that, but underlying that is that a hungry child could not really be a ready learner when they sit in their classroom,” Thai said.
The bill also calls for the Washington State School Directors’ Association to create a model policy regarding school-lunch duration.