Do children have enough time to eat lunch at school?

Kids who eat lunch at school need more time. It’s a concern now being addressed by lawmakers.

It started when Pahoa High and Intermediate School on Hawaii island changed its policy by having the intermediate students eat their lunch during their 15-minute recess period at 10:05 a.m.

As KHON2 first reported, the move drew lots of complaints from parents saying their kids are not getting enough time to eat.

So now a lawmaker wants to help.

The principal has actually increased that recess period to 20 minutes, which parents say still isn’t long enough.

Sen. Michelle Kidani wants to pass a law to change that.

Since October, intermediate students at Pahoa have eaten their lunch during the 20-minute recess while the high school students get a half hour at 12:30 p.m.

The school said it’s better to separate the two age groups, but parents tell us the younger students are not getting enough time to eat.

“It increased from 15 to 20, but still 20 minutes is not enough time, especially because the campus is so large. There’s students all over the campus,” said parent Melissa Estrella.

Her daughter told her that just this week, the school tried to make the lunch line move faster by having the students scan IDs instead of checking off their names.

“Now they’re thinking that by us scanning our IDs, it might go quicker, so I said, ‘They’re still having issues with the lunch system?’ and she said yes,” Estrella said.

Kidani, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education, proposed Senate Bill 2385, which would require schools to have at least a 15-minute recess period right before the lunch period. She says it would not only give students enough time to eat, it would also allow them to run around and play before they eat.

“If you want to encourage them to eat their healthy meals and eat healthier and waste less, that recess before lunch is a good idea,” Kidani said.

The schools superintendent opposed the bill, saying she prefers principals to make these decisions for their schools, so the senator deferred it. But Kidani told us Thursday that she would change it so it doesn’t require all schools, just a few as a pilot program, and Pahoa would be considered.

“We’d like them to consider all things, and not just how convenient it is for all of them, but think of the students,” Kidani said.

KHON2 asked the DOE if it would support the amended version of the senator’s proposal. A spokeswoman says bell schedules are a school level issue, but the department is reviewing the process.

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