I love this idea that I read about on Wasted Food. It’s called recess before lunch, and it’s an idea that’s quite simple. Send kids outside to play at school before they eat their lunch.

Here are a few advantages that I’ve seen mentioned while I've been reading about this.

  • Children will be hungrier when they get to their lunch.
  • They’ll eat more of their lunch because they won’t be rushing to go outside or worse be forced outside before they are finished. A pilot study in Montana schools showed that food waste decreased from 34.9 percent to 24.3 percent when recess was before lunch.
  • They’ll also have time to relax after playing instead of going straight from play to having to sit still at their desks.
  • Schools can save money on food costs.
  • Some schools report fewer discipline problems when they have recess before lunch. 
I know when I empty my boys’ lunchboxes at the end of the day, there is always a lot left over. When I ask them why, they say there isn’t enough time to eat it all before going to the playground. I’ve never been able to figure out if they use their time socializing before eating or if they’re pushed out of the lunchroom quickly to make room for the next group of kids. Either way, a lot of food gets wasted.

Jonathan from Wasted Food says there doesn’t seem to be a downside to recess before lunch. I have it on good authority from a young friend of mine who attends one of the Maryland schools featured in the video below that there is a downside. He’s awfully hungry by the time he finally gets to eat, and he doesn’t like that. His mom says that he eats his whole lunch except for the crusts. I suppose there are some things that recess before lunch can’t fix — a grade-school child’s dislike of crusts is one of them.


Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Recess before lunch
Could solving some big lunchroom problems be as easy as flipping recess and lunch?