Home > Uncategorized > Mindful Eating Will Result in Less Trash, Better Digestions, and Could Lead to Orderly Cafeteria

Mindful Eating Will Result in Less Trash, Better Digestions, and Could Lead to Orderly Cafeteria

Nicholas Bakaler’s article in today’s NYTimes, “Longer Lunch Periods Mean Fuller Students”, describes research findings by Juliana F.W. Cohen, an assistant professor at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, as follows:

Compared with schools where children could sit at the table for 25 minutes or more, those who had 20 to 24 minutes consumed an average of 6.9 percent less of their entrees, 3.7 percent fewer vegetables and 2.3 percent less milk. In schools that allowed less than 20 minutes, students consumed 12.8 percent less of their entrees, 11.8 percent fewer vegetables and 10.3 percent less milk.

The Ms. Cohen concluded that in response to these findings, parents should:

“Push for longer lunch periods, more lunch lines, automated point-of-sale equipment, anything that will get the kids through the lunch line faster so they can spend more time eating.”

As one who designed master schedules and monitored lunchrooms for six years in the late 1970s, I can tell you anecdotally that the fastest eaters where also the most energetic students, the ones most likely to engage in physical horseplay and raucous behavior if the opportunity presented itself. As a result, I worked hard to make certain lunch periods were as short as possible and monitored as closely as possible and had little or no regard for the food that was discarded as a result. I know that one strategy my elementary colleagues used to manage rambunctiousness on the part of students was to schedule recess immediately following lunch, effectively rewarding the energetic and fast eating students for their rapid consumption.

Now, 35 years later, after practicing meditation for nearly a decade, I can see that lunchtime could be an opportunity to introduce parents and students to the concept of mindful consumption. Instead of pushing kids through lines fast to provide more time, schools could use lunch as a time to slow down and reset for the afternoon. Instead of scheduling recess after lunch, it could be scheduled before lunch thereby allowing the students with the greatest need for energy release to get it out of their system before eating their lunches slowly and mindfully.

What would mindful consumption look like? It would require that meals be secured in silence and shared in quiet conversation– an outcome that would be more likely achieved if students released their energy before lunch period. Ideally, it would require some expression of gratitude for those who grew, prepared, and served the food. Also, it could introduce the concepts of nutrition, digestion and self-awareness through the act of mindful eating.

Alas, mindfulness appears to be at loggerheads with the time metrics set forth in Ms. Cohen’s research and the 45-50 minute time frames that govern the building of a master schedule and so we will continue to value efficiency over clear thinking… and our students will as well.

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