Putting recess before lunch in school isn't a new idea. I first heard some schools were implementing this switch six years ago. The idea seemed to make good sense. Students will be more calm if they go straight from lunch to the classroom than if they go from the playground to the classroom. Also, students will be hungrier by the time they get to lunch, which will get them to eat more of what's put in front of them. Additionally, if students aren't itching to get out the door and onto the playground, they'll not only eat more, they'll most likely eat more of the things they throw away the most — fruits and vegetables. That was the theory, anyway.
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That theory has now been backed up with a study printed in Preventative Medicine. Researches analyzed a total of 22,939 observations of students in first through sixth grade and concluded that switching to recess before lunch did get children to eat more fruits and vegetables — 54 percent more. Students who had the traditional setup of lunch first and then recess decreased the amount of produce they ate during the time of the study, according to Cornell University. Researches observed the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten by standing right next to the trash cans and recording the produce than went into the cans.
Co-author of the study David Just, PhD of Cornell University said, "Recess is often held after lunch so children hurry to “finish” so that they can go play — this results in wasted fruits and vegetables." Just and his co-author Joseph Price, Ph.D. of Brigham Young University recommend that every school makes the switch.
This makes sense, yet many schools still have kids eat first. The time allotted for total lunch/recess time has decreased in many schools and many children would rather play than sit and eat. They need to move and get their energy out. If all schools could make this switch, which doesn't seem to come with a price tag, kids just may eat healthier.
An added bonus to putting recess first would be there would be less wasted food. This could be one of the many actions needed to be implemented to help reach the federal governments national goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.