British Columbia

Parents demand longer lunch breaks for 'hangry' school kids

A Richmond, B.C., parent has created an online petition demanding lunchtimes be extended to 35 minutes and be supervised by adults. The petition has over 1,800 signatures.
Richmond mom Judie Schneider started a petition asking for longer adult supervised lunch times for elementary school children in B.C. (Judie Schneider )

One B.C. mother is tired of picking up a hungry, grumpy kid at the end of the school day and is asking the province to mandate longer lunch breaks, so children have more time to eat.

Judie Schneider says she has heard from other parents in her school district in Richmond that her son is not the only one coming home "hangry," with an uneaten lunch and a bad attitude, because lunch breaks are are only 17 minutes long.

"The kids are hungry from lunchtime onwards until the end of the day and that sets the tone," she told the host of CBC's All Point West.

Schneider wants the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Teachers' Federation to take action and has created an online petition demanding lunchtimes be extended to 35 minutes and  be supervised by adults.

The petition has over 1,800 signatures.

'It's chaos'

Many schools in B.C., including in Richmond, have lunch breaks that are around 40 minutes long, however half of that is mandatory outdoor playtime and students often have less than 20 minutes for a meal.

Schools in the Surrey school district for example give students a 45-minute break in the afternoon but only 15 minutes to eat lunch, and in North Vancouver, students have 20 minutes to eat.  

This period includes coming in from playtime, retrieving lunch from their backpacks, washing their hands, and cleaning up after the meal.

The result, says Schneider, is wasted food, kids who can't focus on afternoon classes and who return home too exhausted to spend quality time with parents.

The vice president of the Richmond District Parents Association, Andrew Scallion, wrote on the petition website: "I have heard from many, many parents of their frustration with too short eating breaks.

"This is an extremely important issue."

Schneider said parents have also spoken to her about safety concerns, because lunchtime in her son's school is not supervised by adults.

Not a new issue

Schneider's petition points to research on school lunch breaks presented to the New Westminster School Board in 2011 by Mary Ann Mortensen, former vice-president of the district's Parent Advisory Council.

That research suggested the district increase lunch breaks from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.

The research was endorsed at the time by Dr. John Blatherwick, the former chief medical officer for Vancouver Coastal Health.

Lunchtimes at New Westminster elementary schools are 17 minutes.

With files from All Points West