SPECIAL REPORT: School Lunch Rush

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The first thing some kids say when they get home from school is? I'm hungry.

And some parents, like Kirstin Castle Osmer from Bath, think it's because they don't have enough time to eat lunch at school.

"She comes home pretty hungry, she'll sometimes grab the lunch to eat the leftovers," Osmer said.

Her daughter goes to Bath Elementary, and comes home with food still in her lunch box.

"I'll ask her, 'Why is the lunch still here?' And she'll say, 'Well, I don't have time to eat it.'"

And she's not alone. Dozens of parents, from multiple districts, told News 10 that their children complain they don't have enough time to eat, including nutritionist Katherine Alaimo.

Her son is in elementary school in East Lansing.

"If kids don't get those school meals, then they're not going to be able to pay attention in school," the associate professor of nutrition at MSU said. "They're not going to be able to learn."

Alaimo's research shows, it takes at least 20 minutes of seated time eating lunch for the brain to process that you're hungry, and full.

But getting that seated time isn't so easy.

There's different lines, and times for lunch at every school, every day. So the amount of time kids have sitting at the table to eat constantly changes.

Most schools have between 20-40 minutes total for lunch period. That includes walking to the cafeteria, standing in line, recess and getting back to the classroom.

Which Bath Township food services director Cathy Zeeb says, isn't enough time, especially for the younger kids.

"They have a lot of choices that they have to make... they have to choose between a couple of different fruits and a vegetable, and they have to decide what kind of milk they want," Zeeb said. "And by that time they're just like oh my gosh i have to make all these decisions and then they only get a few minutes to eat."

And there's something the state can do about it.

17 states have regulations saying kids need a certain amount of time to eat, but Michigan's only says kids need "adequate" time to eat.

But it doesn't specify what "adequate" means, and has no mention of "seated time."

The Michigan Department of Education says, if anything's going to change, it has to come from the legislature.

State Representative Andy Schor (D-Lansing), from the House Education Committee says, his son has complained about it too, but, he still thinks each individual school district needs to decide how long lunch is.

"There's just too many intricacies within the lunch period, and the other educational requirements for the legislature to really weigh in," Rep Schor said.

Bath's Superintendent Jake Huffman says he's open to the idea of longer lunch periods, but it comes at a cost.

"If we add ten minutes to lunch, then we'd have to add ten minutes on to the day, or additional days, to make up that time," Huffman said. "That doesn't count toward your instructional time in a day."

And that means for now, Kirstin Castle Osmer will have to keep packing lunches that come home unfinished.