Recess Before Lunch Helps Make Kids Healthier, Ready to Learn

November 15, 2010

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

We’ve been saying for years that recess before lunch is a great strategy to reduce plate waste, but it’s nice to see that a recent New York Times article identifies even more benefits:

“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” said Janet Sinkewicz, principal of Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, N.J., which made the change last fall. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”

It’s almost as if switching to recess before lunch is an answer to a question that people don’t even know to ask. Some of the benefits identified include :

  • Teachers reported that students got their ‘wiggles’ out
  • Students ate more of their lunches
  • Students were less likely to become hungry or feel sick later in the day
  • Students drank more milk and water
  • The eating environment had a more relaxed atmosphere
  • School nurse visits dropped
  • It saved 10-15 minutes of classroom time; the lunch after recess became the ‘cool-down period’ before returning to the classroom and students were then more ready to start their class work immediately.

Not to say that a schedule switch such as this isn’t without logistical challenges, but the benefits are obvious.

At a time when schools are strapped for cash, we can’t forget that so many of the things we can do to improve the school food/wellness environment don’t require money — just a little creativity.

And I need to give a shout-out to all the school nurses out there. I learned something new in this article… that a school nurse started the entire idea of doing this! Nice work!

“One of the earliest schools to adopt the idea was North Ranch Elementary in Scottsdale, Ariz. About nine years ago, the school nurse suggested the change, and the school conducted a pilot study, tracking food waste and visits to the nurse along with anecdotal reports on student behavior.

“By the end of the year, nurse visits had dropped 40 percent, with fewer headaches and stomachaches. One child told school workers that he was happy he didn’t throw up anymore at recess.”

At HSC, we salute simple solutions that make kids healthier and more ready to learn.

Have you tried this in your school? Let us know!

For more of our blogs on recess, click here.