Impacts of Scheduling Recess Before Lunch in Elementary Schools: A Case Study Approach of Plate Waste and Perceived Behaviors
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Purpose/Objectives Recess Before Lunch (RBL) for elementary students is considered a best practice related to increased nutrient intakes at lunch, decreased afternoon behavioral issues, and increased afternoon learning efficiency; however, school characteristics, such as amount of time for lunch, offer vs. serve, and scheduling factors can influence implementation. A qualitative study to examine impacts of RBL on plate waste and school stakeholders’ perceptions of third grade students’ behaviors in three school districts in one Midwest state was conducted. The results were used to develop a guide that includes tools and best practices to assist schools in determination of recess scheduling. Methods Digital photography and weight-based assessment of plate waste by meal component were collected among third-graders in three geographically distinct, independent school districts with varying student enrollments. Data were collected on two occasions in fall when recess was scheduled after lunch and again in spring when recess was scheduled before lunch. Following completion of a short survey, interviews with multiple stakeholders at each school building were conducted in fall and spring to assess views of the benefits and challenges associated with changing to recess before lunch. Results Plate waste and fluid milk consumption varied between sites. Findings suggest other environmental influences affect food and milk consumption beyond scheduling of recess. Digital photography method of plate waste estimation was validated with comparisons to actual weights and measures. Application to Child Nutrition Professionals Findings from this study were utilized to develop a guide to assist decision makers considering moving recess before lunch. The guide includes tools and best practices to assist schools in the determination of making the change to recess before lunch. The guide is located on the USDA State Sharing Center webpage and available as a resource to all interested parties.
This article is published as Strohbehn , C.H., Strohbehn, G., Lanningham-Foster, L., Litchfield, R., Scheidel, C., & Delger, P. Impacts of Scheduling Recess Before Lunch in Elementary Schools: A Case Study Approach of Plate Waste and Perceived Behaviors. Journal of Child Nutrition and Management, 40(1). Posted with permission.