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Episode Info: Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:via Apple Podcasts | via Stitcher | via NPROne | via Spotify School lunchtime is when kids can eat and recharge before getting back to learning. But at many schools across the country, kids don’t have much time for lunch. Some schools average 25 minutes in the elementary years and 30 minutes for middle and high schools but time gets eaten up when kids have to wait in long lines for food. A 2013 survey of parents found that 20 percent of their elementary-age kids had less than 15 minutes to eat. And the amount of time kids have for lunch influences food choices. Studies have shown that when kids have 20 minutes or less to eat, they will eat less food and skip the fruit. Even if fiber and vitamin-rich foods end up on a kid’s tray, that doesn’t mean the kids have time to eat them, and this food often ends up in the trash. Changing food without addressing the time and conditions needed to eat those foods can get in the way of healthy eating. And then there are social issues. School administrators and lunch supervisors are often trying to maintain order so that kids are safe. But ask kids what concerns them during lunchtime and it’s all about their peers. They don’t want to be left out, especially in middle school, when socializing means so much to developing adolescents. “There might be some kind of joke they wouldn’t understand,” said Tice Creek student Alejandra Gonzalez about kids waiting in the cafeteria line. Being included in the conversation is so important, students spend time in the mornings to make lunch so they don’t have to wait in the cafeteria line. And then there’s the matter of getting a good spot at a table inside the bustling cafeteria. “Sometimes you might worry that you might not get a spot,” said Gonzalez. “You might get pushed to the edge or sit at a different table than you would like because of the fact that you have to wait in line, and then it takes a lot more time to get ready and sit down with your friends.” It’s why so many kids at this Walnut Creek school bring their lunch to school. Nearly all middle school students I observed brought their lunch to school. And it’s often full of snacks. Lunch brought from home can consist of a lot of snacks. (Ki Sung)DESIGN THINKING In order to improve the school lunch experience, Zetta Reicker and Melanie Brokdskiy, who both have kids enrolled at the school, approached the principal and the district superintendent to explore what a student-led school lunch redesign might look like. Reicker was the nutrition director of the San Francisco Unified School District, so she knows the challenges inherent to school lunch. She also worked with design firm IDEO when it worked with the district to launch a school lunch redesign process in 2013. As part of redesigning the lunch experience for Tice Creek students, Reicker and Brodskiy hosted a series of workshops to gather student input about food ...
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