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RES is bringing kids back to lunch

A schedule change this year at Rosemount Elementary School is transforming lunch from a barrier between students and recess to a chance for students to refuel and get ready for the rest of their day.

RES made the change this year after noticing many students were throwing away large portions of their meal untouched. The thought, assistant principal Kris Scallon said, was that students eager to get out to the playground were rushing through lunch.

The solution? Let students have their play time first, then sit them down to eat. Students get a chance to work up an appetite running around outside and they don't feel like they need to be in such a hurry to get done.

"We noticed the food waste and we thought the cafeteria could be calmer for students because we wanted them to have a calm place to eat," Scallon said.

Under the new schedule students get 20 minutes for recess, then come inside, wash their hands and line up for lunch. Teachers get to spend some time socializing with students while they eat and there is a chance to work through any conflicts that came up on the playground.

So far the results are exactly what the school was looking for. RES food service manager Shannon Morrison said students are throwing away about a quarter of what they did before. Students are taking the same amount of food they did in other years but now they're eating it all. Several even come back to buy a second carton of milk. Morrison said her a la carte sales are up this year.

"They spend a little more time coming in and eating and not chit-chatting," Morrison said. "They're not rushing to get outside and play."

Scallon said the noise level in the cafeteria is down significantly this year and the change, at least based on informal conversations, is popular with the kids, too.

The new system is not perfect yet. Scallon said she's still trying to make the new lunch routine work with everyone's classroom schedules. She doesn't want the younger kids to get to lunch too early and she doesn't want the older students eating too late.

"When we get to cold weather and we need to deal with snowpants and jackets we'll need to do some adjusting," Scallon said.

There could still be some minor adjustments to start and end times for lunch.

Morrison has had to shift her employees' hours a little, but that adjustment wasn't difficult.

Overall, Scallon said, everyone is happy with the change.

"It's coming along," she said.