A new study shows that children increase their fruit and vegetable intake if they eat school lunch after recess. The study was conducted by researchers at The Veggie Project, a Brigham Young University initiative.
Most of Utah’s elementary schools give students one hour total for lunch and recess. Traditionally, students go to lunch first and as soon as they are finished they use the remainder of the hour to play. Joseph Price is the director of The Veggie Project, and he says this can create an unfortunate trade-off.
“I think the major effect is that recess is a pretty big deal for kids and so if kids have to choose between recess and veggies, the recess is going to win," Price says.
Veggie Project researchers collected data from seven schools in Orem. Four of the schools kept the traditional schedule, eating lunch before recess. Three schools switched, having 30 minutes of recess first followed by 30 minutes of just lunch. Price says the group which ate after they played consumed 54 percent more fruits and vegetables which also decreased other effects of hunger.
“Lagging hunger can decrease children’s academic performance in the afternoon," Price says. "And it also leads to excessive and unhealthy snacking when the children return home from school.”
Price says he hopes more elementary schools consider having recess first as a possible way to increase childhood nutrition.