MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When we were growing up, you always had recess after lunch.

But new research shows that children will eat 54 percent more fruits and vegetables at lunch if they eat after recess.

“Recess is often held after lunch so children hurry to ‘finish’ so that they can go play. This results in wasted fruits and vegetables,” Dr. David Just of Cornell University said. “However, we found that if recess is held before lunch, students come to lunch with healthy appetites and less urgency, and are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables.”

Over the past decade, more and more schools have moved to a recess-before-lunch schedule. But others have stuck with tradition.

In a survey of several Twin Cities area schools, WCCO found a handful of school districts — including Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and St. Louis Park — all have recess before lunch.

In other districts — including Anoka-Hennepin, St. Paul, Osseo, White Bear Lake, Lakeville, Bloomington, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan and Stillwater — the schedule varies by school and even by grade level.

At Park Brook Elementary in Brooklyn Park, the first and second graders eat after recess, while the third, fourth and fifth graders have recess after lunch.

According to Park Brook Principal Scott Taylor, the reasoning behind that schedule has to do with the difficulty of scheduling. He must work around the schedules of the students who need English and math support, while fitting it art and physical education.

Taylor says he doesn’t want students to be eating lunch at 2:30 p.m.

“It is extremely challenging,” Taylor said.

He also says he wants only one grade on the playground at a time to give kids more options and opportunities to play. He says that move alone has cut way down on behavioral problems at the school.

And then there’s the layout of the school, where the easiest way to the playground is through the doors of the lunchroom.

“It’s convenient, but when it’s winter, it gets slippery,” he said. “When we had the kids going outside first, we had a problem in the lunchroom keeping it safe.”

If scheduling and logistics were a non-issue, Taylor says he’d rather have kids eat after recess.

“That way they go out there, they burn off some of that energy. They come in, they can sit down, eat and not be anxious to get outside,” he said.

He knows that if given the opportunity, some children would rush through lunch to be able to maximize their time outside. But at Park Brook Elementary, which focuses on fitness and health, Taylor requires his students to sit at lunch for a full 30 minutes.

“They do take the time to eat,” he said.

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Heather Brown

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