This performance audit explored issues around lunchtime scheduling practices in elementary schools. We wanted to know how school lunch schedules might affect students’ health and behavior in the classroom.
Research suggests that two leading practices — releasing children to recess before lunch and then giving them enough time to eat — increase the likelihood that children will eat more and healthier foods. Unfortunately, our results also show that most of the schools we looked at have not adopted these practices. There can be legitimate reasons for this, including facility limitations and fiscal constraints.
But we also saw that schools whose principals made lunch-scheduling practices a priority were better able to make these practices work. In our view, OSPI can play an important role by requiring schools to give students adequate time, once seated, to eat. The agency can also encourage and facilitate the practice of recess before lunch.