• Kent parents say kids going home hungry, lunch period too short

    By: Deedee Sun

    Updated:

    KENT, Wash. - Some parents in the Kent School District are upset, saying their kids are only being given 12 minutes to eat their lunches. 

    Several moms at Glenridge Elementary in Kent tell KIRO7 their kids are coming home with stomachaches or have even lost weight since the beginning of the school year. 

    The Kent School District said kids at Glenridge are supposed to get 20 minutes for lunch, followed by 15 minutes of recess. In a letter sent out to parents, the school’s principal acknowledged there have been days when that time period is shorter. 

    “This can happen when classes arrive late to the lunch room or another class takes longer to clean up,” the school district said in a statement. 

    Brindi Matava, a Kent mom, told KIRO7’s Deedee Sun that at first, she noticed her 5-year-old daughter, Addie, wasn’t finishing her lunches and would come home ravenous. 

    “When I opened her lunch box, there was a few bites taken out of this or a few bites taken out of that,” Matava said.

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    She said at first, she thought Addie was too busy playing or talking to friends.

    But when she and Addie’s grandmother got invited to Glenridge Elementary to  have lunch to celebrate Addie being star student of the week, they noticed something.

    “The kids were in this big huge rush, they were all scurrying,” said Bernadette Dickinson, Addie’s grandmom. “They were really just eating at such a rapid pace. It was horrifying to watch.”

    “When they got to the table, they then had 12 minutes to eat,” Matava said. She said then the kids were ushered out for recess. 

    “Most the kids who still had half their lunch or more got up and threw it in the trash,” Matava said. “I started to cry, and my daughter said, ‘Why are you crying?’ And I said, ‘I'm just so happy for you!’ I gave her a hug and I left.” 

    Matava said the lack of time to eat has actually caused her kindergartener to lose weight

    “She only weighs 36 pounds. At the beginning of school she weighed almost 38, and now she's back down to 36,” she said. 

    Another Kent mom, Kristine Crawford, said the problem is impacting her daughter, too.  

    “Kayla was complaining about stomachaches, which we addressed several times with her pediatrician. The doctor said it could be a variety of things. We hadn’t even considered hunger as one of those options,” Crawford said. 

    Both moms are asking for at least 20 minutes of seated time -- that means not including time spent standing in line, or cleaning up. 

    KIRO7 was there last year when Bellevue parents successfully fought for longer lunches in that district after lawyering up – and got an extra five minutes of lunch time, up to 25 minutes. 

    The moms in Kent hope to bring changes too - not just Glenridge or Kent, but to all of Washington state, which has no time mandate for lunchtimes.

    “We are our children's only voice, and if we don't speak up for them no one will speak up for them. I hope parents stand up and help fight the battle,” Matava said.

    Crawford said she is starting a petition to get lawmakers’ attention, and is reaching out to the Washington State PTA. 

    The Kent School District commented on the parents’ concerns, saying in a statement to KIRO7: 

    “Glenridge Kindergarteners do have 20 minutes for lunch each day and 15 minutes of recess. In addressing concerns of one parent this week, we did find that time had been cut short on a particular day. This can happen when classes arrive late to the lunch room or another class takes longer to clean up.  As our youngest learners settle in to their first year in school and learn to get organized, leave the classroom, and transition to lunch we continue to work with them and our adults to ensure they receive adequate time for their meals and for recess.

    If any of our students do need more time and request it, our staff accommodate them. We know that when our children regularly eat balanced and nutritious meals, they concentrate better in class, participate more enthusiastically and, most importantly, learn better. And that is why we are here, to support the teaching and learning of each and every child in Kent School District."

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