Michigan Department of Education to Release Memo on Length of School Lunch

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Is your kid starving when they come home from school? The State Department of Education has been flooded with complaints from parents who say their kids don't have enough time to eat lunch. They'll send the note to schools throughout the state, providing suggestions for how schools can allot more time for lunch. Recent policy changes from the USDA require schools to provide healthier foods- many of which take longer to eat.

Jenn Castillo packs a lot of lunches, but the mom of five says much of what she packs her kids isn't consumed at school.

"Typically, my kids will finish their lunch in the car on the way home. If they eat hot lunch I have to bring a sandwich when I pick them up because they're going to be hungry right away because more food gets thrown away than gets eaten," said Jenn Castillo.

And she's not alone. The Michigan Department of Education says they've been flooded with complaints like Castillo's.

"We've seen a rise in those complaints, especially over the last year, as USDA has changed the meal pattern to offer healthier options for lunch, and this year for breakfast," said Kyle Guerrant, Director of Office of School Support Services, MDE.

Healthier options pediatric dietitian Emily Ostrowski says take kids longer to eat.

"If you want kids to eat a salad or whole apple with lunch, that's going to take a lot longer than a small plate of french fries," said Emily Ostrowski pediatric dietitian, Sparrow.

But if they're pressed for time kids are more likely to choose the fries.

"I think that kids are going to go to the foods that are easiest to eat. Something that's really easy to open and might not be as nutritious if they feel rushed," said Ostrowski.

Only 6 states combat the rushed lunch with policies that spell out exactly how much time students must have to eat. Michigan isn't one of them. But the Department of Education says they know it's an issue. More than half of the schools they recently surveyed report say-their students are struggling to eat in the time provided. That's why the state superintendent is issuing a memo to all schools with some recommendations.

"A simple thing that could give students more time, maybe not even increasing the amount of time, during the day, but having recess before lunch at elementary levels has been shown to reduce plate waste," said Guerrant.

Parents like Castillo hoping that suggestion, and others like it, will mean less food coming back home.