Dear Future President,
Our education system provides poor nourishment for developing minds. We have irregular start and end times that lead to poor sleep in our adolescents . School lunches with almost no nutritional value are made even worse by short lunch periods, so short that students don’t have enough time to eat as much food as they need.
Schools need to change their start and end times. Schools start too early for students to get an adequate amount of sleep. On average, students get between seven and seven and a quarter hours of sleep(Mindell JA & Owens JA). However, on average, students need seven to nine hours of sleep (Derrer). Most students have a tight schedule, having to juggle homework, extracurriculars, a social life, and sleep. More often than not, sleep is the lowest priority out of all of these. Between homework, which on average, high school students spend ten and a half hours a week on, and these other activities, students push the limit on the amount of sleep that they need. Students who get better sleep study more effectively, earn better grades, and maintain their physical health(Cuseo, Fecas, and Thompson). Schools need to adjust their schedule to start later to allow for better mental as well as physical health.
To build upon the issue of physical and mental health, school lunches have close to no nutritional value. They are based on attempts to hit calorie and fat numbers and not on how good it is for you or if you enjoy it. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools to provide more fruits and vegetables, more grains, and lower fat, calorie and sodium limits(SNA). Even though they try to make students’ diets more healthy, they still allow students to pick unhealthy options as they make the healthy options unappealing. This has multiple effects on the students and the school itself. Schools restrict the diets of students to prevent childhood obesity, but ultimately they provide students with lunches that don’t give them the energy they need to be active or perform well cognitively(MHA). School lunches also (because they are lacking in nutrients) don’t help prevent students from falling asleep in class(MHA). School lunches lacking nutrients also increase depression in students. If we are trying to fight these maladies, then why do we support unhealthy diets? We need to remove the constraints that we have put on school lunches. This would further support the mental and physical health of students.
To go along with replacing school lunches to be more nutritional, school lunch periods also need to be longer. Current lunch periods at my local high school are twenty-eight minutes long including getting to the lunchroom and getting food, by which time students have between twenty and twenty-five minutes to eat. My school also doesn’t allow eating outside of lunch. Twenty to twenty-five minutes per day is hardly enough time for students to eat, converse, do homework, exercise or relax, which are all things that students need to enjoy school and succeed in it. Even if students choose to do one of the aforementioned activities during their lunch period, they still have hardly enough time to complete it in full. School lunches should be lengthened to one half hour period of solid eating time and two fifteen minutes periods should be added allowing for snacking. With a lengthened lunch, schools can combat major issues with eating in and between classes. In conjunction with the extended lunch period, school starting and finishing later would allow school be on a more convenient schedule in terms of sleep and eating cycles.
Schools need to adjust their start times to allow for more sleep, add more nutritional value to lunches, and extend lunches to allow for more activities. A possible solution that could solve the scheduling part of this issue is starting school at 9:00 AM, having 2 hours of classes followed by a fifteen minute snack break one to two more hours and a thirty minute lunch break, concluded by one to two more hours of classes and another fifteen minute snack break. This allows for more sleep in the mornings, enough time for any sports teams or other extra-curriculars to still meet after school, and enough time for students to eat as much food as they need. This will support mental and physical health of students, and allow for a more convenient schedule for students.
Abdullah and Evan
Cuseo, , Fecas, and Thompson. Academic Success Center, Oregon State University, 2016. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.
WebMD, edited by David T. Derrer 20 Mar. 2016. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.
Healthy Diet, Mental Health America. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.
Sleep in Adolescents, Nation Children's. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.
Bidwell, Allie. Students Spend More Time on Homework but Teachers Say It's Worth It, U.S. News & World Report, 27 Feb. 2014. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.