Two-year pilot program to find ways to give students more time to eat lunch

Washington State leaders are trying to fix a problem that's affecting schools across the state.

Washington state leaders are trying to fix a problem that's affecting schools across the state.

A state audit suggested that the state’s elementary schools aren't providing enough time for students to eat lunch.

The state's review involved visits to 31 schools and found most didn't allow for the recommended minimum of 20 minutes of seated lunchtime, and half of the schools didn't have recess before the meal.

Content Continues Below

A concerned mother from Vancouver, Washington, said she brought the problem to light when she learned her child had 15 minutes total for lunch.

That includes waiting in line for food, getting a tray filled and eating. She said that only left about five minutes to eat.

The mother, Caressa Milgrove, has lobbied to extend the time to 20 minutes for sitting and eating.

Milgrove failed in her effort to pass a bill mandating school lunch times but did get the state to sign off on money to fund a pilot program with the goal of making sure lunchtime can be 20 minutes.

Six schools will test out different methods. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is taking applications from schools now.

That could mean changing recess times or trying to move children through at different times.

“I think it really puts Washington at the forefront. I think there are maybe five states nationwide that require some sort of seated lunch duration standard, our law here is pretty relaxed. I'm really excited to help schools figure this out,” said Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction legislative bill specialist Mikhail Cherniske.

“We're going to be very interested to find out what the results of this pilot program are so we can take that information and then take a look at our own practices and decide if it's something that we can implement here,” said L. Michelle, with Issaquah Schools.

Officials told KIRO 7 that once they decide which schools will take part, the program will start as soon as possible and last for two years.