Procter, reporter and nutritionist - Denny Scott editorial
While I expected to start off 2021 in a way different than every other year, I don’t think anything I could’ve done would have prepared me for exactly how different it has been thanks to the ongoing lockdown and online learning.
As I penned this on Sunday evening (making up for lost time during the previous week due to proctoring my daughter’s education for six hours a day instead of putting pen to paper or cursor to text document) I looked forward to the week to come. It was set to involve, for most days, getting up early to work instead of walk, settling in to help Mary Jane focus on her classwork for the aforementioned six hours, then settling in to work until I head to bed. I was a little frazzled and a little frustrated.
I certainly don’t resent the teachers’ unions or any of the other many voices calling for continued online learning. I also don’t begrudge the government for agreeing with it. No, the frustration that I felt was because of the switch, some years ago, to “nutritional breaks” for students throughout the school day instead of having lunch breaks.
For those of you who aren’t aware, there is no lunch break at school. As a matter of fact, between 11:10 a.m. and 12:50 p.m., students are supposed to be in class (or, with online learning, in front of a screen in class or following up on some independent educational material).
Students get nutritional breaks at 10:30 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. and, let me tell you, second only to trying to do my job while helping Mary Jane with school work, for example trying to aid her in perfecting her “Z”s, it’s almost the toughest part of the day.
I’m a creature of habit, and whether that’s because I’m a curmudgeon or whether it’s tied to some learning challenges I overcame as a child and younger man, it does make it difficult to stray from my schedule of eating lunch near noon, to say nothing of my home office becoming my only office and Mary Jane’s classroom.
Even calling this a first-world problem may be doing a disservice to regular first-world problems. I’m extremely fortunate to have a job that will allow me to work from home and modify my hours to allow me to help Mary Jane throughout her school day. I know a lot of people aren’t as lucky and are having to take time away from work to care for their school-age children. That said, it has got me thinking a lot about why the nutritional breaks are used and how silly it seems to continue the practice.
Ignoring my own adherence to a pretty regular lunch schedule of getting the mail and heading home to eat a sandwich and
salad around 12:15 p.m., I have to wonder whether this isn’t setting up students to have the inverse of my problem: finishing public school and then suddenly finding themselves getting one lunch break a day in high school, or if this practice continues there, only getting one lunch break when they enter the workforce.
While I’m aware that a certain degree of sheltering students of all ages from the outside world needs to happen, the whole staggered lunch thing just doesn’t seem smart to me.
Lunch at noon likely means between five and six hours between both breakfast and dinner (at least it does in my house). Mary Jane usually has breakfast between 6 and 6:30 a.m. every day of the week. On the weekends, however, she has lunch around noon and then dinner between 5:30-6:30 p.m. There’s regularity there with between five and six hours between each meal.
When we send her to school, however, she’s eating again four hours after breakfast, another two hours later or so, and then she has four to five hours until dinner. It seems a bit odd, especially considering that, personally, I know that those rare occasions when I need a snack it always falls around 2:30 p.m.
We haven’t bought into the system at home, and that hasn’t been a conscious decision; I didn’t even know how much of a difference it was until I was trying to plan out two “nutritional breaks” to equal one lunch last week.
It certainly put things in a new light, however, when the weekend hit and Mary Jane started getting hungry around 10:30 a.m. I realized, on Saturday, that it wasn't just her being a growing girl or having hollow legs, this was when she would normally tuck into the “lunch” we pack her on a daily basis.
I know the supposed benefits of a “balanced school day” as they call it. It’s touted as improving concentration, removing the rush from eating, allowing teachers to supervise eating and providing both more outdoor time and time for learning.
The question I have, however, is what was so wrong with the way things used to be? I mean, no one in any generation before the youngest ones starved or became obese because they had a lunch break instead of two nutritional breaks. Maybe I’m just
pining for the old ways, but by 10:30 a.m. I’m not hungry enough to eat any more than an apple and by 1 p.m. I’m bordering on “hangry”.