Dayton elementary parents concerned about short school lunch period

Dayton superintendent says students have 30 minutes for lunch and recess and can take full time to eat.

Some Dayton Public Schools parents are concerned their elementary school aged kids are not given enough time to eat lunch.

Parent Erin Menchaca observed her second-grade daughter’s lunch last week at River’s Edge Montessori and found the lunch period had apparently been shortened to a 15-minute lunch with a 15-minute recess from a 20 to 30-minute lunch last year. The observation came after her daughter complained about being hungry after school.

A River’s Edge parent group met last month at Gem City Market to discuss the issue further but haven’t spoken publicly.

Dayton Public Schools superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said all elementary schools have 30 minutes for lunch and recess. Students can take the entire 30 minutes to eat lunch if they want.

“The district has always had a 30 minute lunch period that includes recess. When students are finished with lunch, they can then go to recess,” Lolli said.

But Menchaca said that wasn’t her experience and argued children that young will often choose recess over eating.

“From my children’s experience, and what I and other parents have witnessed, students are absolutely not encouraged to spend more time eating lunch if they need,” Menchaca said. “They are told to throw whatever food is left after 15 minutes and go to recess and are made to wipe down their tables.”

Dayton Public Schools are a provider of universal free breakfast and lunch for all students. The federal government pays for school lunch programs and now has poverty guidelines for schools to receive aid.

Menchaca said what frustrated her when she watched her daughter’s lunch period was the amount of food thrown away. Her kids can come home and have food, she said, and she packs her six-year-old son’s lunch because he’s a picky eater. But for some students, school-provided lunch and breakfast are the only meals they may get, she said.

“This is not a district where we need to be limiting their time to eat their lunch because they might go home and not have another meal until the next day of school,” Menchaca said.

According to The Foodbank, who provides food to Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties, 99,090 people struggle with food insecurity with 32,660 of them being children. Just in Montgomery County, 75,810 people struggle with food insecurity with 26,700 of them being children.

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