Worthington school sees benefits in moving recess before lunch

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 10, 2019 file photo, 6-year-old elementary school students go through the lunch line in the school's cafeteria in Paducah, Ky. (Ellen O'Nan/The Paducah Sun via AP)
Switching Lunch
School Lunch Changes

WORTHINGTON, Ohio (10TV) -- Recent studies show changing the longstanding school tradition of lunch before recess can lead to large student benefits. According to a recent study, kids eat more, waste less food, return to the class calmer, behave better and as a result, instruction time is increased. One local principal has rolled out the shift and said she would not go back. Worthington Hills principal Allie Seiling has already rolled the switch-up out for her student body.

"In only the time since this school year began, we've seen results," said Seiling.

A report from Peaceful Playgrounds said when recess precedes lunch, children ate 24% more food, wasted 30% less food, consumed 8% more calories, consumed 35% more calcium and 13% more vitamin A.

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A recently-released study out of Ball State announced a series of benefits when school kids play first. Researchers cited numerous nutrition, behavior and conservation benefits however said some school leaders said there are barriers to making the change. Seiling said locally, the process of change began when parents demonstrated research at a PTA meeting. She immediately took action, and students have taken note.

"I would come home with half of a sandwich or untouched fruit and my parents would say 'Why didn't you finish this?' and I would tell them I didn't have enough time. I just wanted to rush out to recess," said 6th grade student Riley Wilkinson. "Now I'm hungry and not rushed. I finish my lunch."

Some Worthington Hills Elementary students describe a difference in their ability to focus during afternoon classes now that recess time comes first.

"Last year our teachers had to have us put our heads down on our desks when we came in from recess, because we were being really loud," said 6th grade student Ella Schumacher. "Now it is nice to have a calm-down time before we come back to class."

School leaders also say they've noticed food waste is down.

"We'd see sandwiches thrown in the trash, we'd see lunch trays with the fruits and vegetables dumped in there. Now we're seeing empty plastic bags and empty food containers, not a lot of food anymore," said Seiling. "We have no plans of going back."