When it comes to the order of go at Magnificent Minds Inc., we don't leave much to chance. Every moment of the day is designed to be the most impactful for our students. For the first time ever, in the 2018-2019 academic year, we've totally turned our "system" upside down as a sort of trial run.
The hypothesis: Would kids eat more at lunch time, be more willing to try different foods, and generally be more likely to eat a balanced meal and be better fuelled for learning, if we let them run off their energy before lunch?! On top of that, would recess be more high impact, more high energy, more social and more engaging for our students if they weren't participating with full bellies?
We switched our lunch and lunch recess period; recess first, lunch second. It seems easy, but it wasn't a program change we took lightly! Like our students, we had gotten comfortable with our routines, but when our new school site offered the opportunity for a catered lunch program we thought: let's just go for it!
So, we started offering our vegetarian and kosher meals (yes, you read that right!) that offered at least 2 fresh veggies each day, fresh fruits, a warm main course with a small dessert to sweeten the offer. We were excited to be able to work on table manners like serving and setting the table, restaurant etiquette like being polite about food you're not fond of, trying new foods that are offered or declining politely, waiting for everyone to finish before you get up, and using all the right cutlery. Not to mention how excited we were to expose our students to vegetarian foods! It's amazing what kids will eat (think tuna bagels, fish sticks, French toast, vegetable marinara, celery, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, pineapple, water melon, honeydew, cantaloupe, bananas, apples, you get the idea) when their friends are devouring it! Even the pickiest of eaters (like, my kids for example) were up to the task!
Like I said, many of our students have very particular palates; before the lunch plan, parents (like me) reported difficulty packing lunches that their kids would actually eat. Many of our kids arrived with what we called "snack-is lunches" because, frankly, they were picky and mom and dad just wanted to make sure they didn't go hungry (from one picky-eater's parents to another, I get it). Those very same kids are now eating full plates of food! If you have a picky eater, you know how HUGE this is! Not only do parents report that their kids are less scared of trying new foods, but they also report they are actually asking for some of their favourites from the school menu. If I had a dollar for every time a parent said "hey can you send me today's menu again, my kid is going crazy for whatever you served!" I think I'd be rich :)
Though I can't say for sure if having recess before lunch is causing increased appetites, I can say for sure it's positively correlated! I mean, this isn't exactly a well laid out research proposal with empirical evidence but let's just say we have no plans of going back to our old model. It seems, at least in our small sample size, that by switching our lunch period to after recess we've ensured our kids come to recess wild, and full of energy, and leave hungry!