Cutting Lunch from the Menu at Public Schools

My son just entered 9th grade at Hanover High School, in Hanover, New Hampshire. I mention the school by name because I want to call it out publicly for a shocking decision it has made. Hanover High School does not have a lunch period. The school is a highly competitive institution notorious for a cheating scandal that made national news in four years ago; more than 50 students succumbed to the intense academic pressure and used stolen exams to pass their tests. This is a school that piles on tests and homework, and prides itself in preparing students to be accepted to prestigious colleges. Apparently, they have decided that when it comes to trivial pursuits like eating, the kids are on their own.

Hanover High School has found time in their schedule for half-hour “Activity periods,” when clubs meet. They have even scheduled in so-called X periods where students can sit around and do nothing for an hour. And yet, they can’t find time to give the students regular, daily lunch periods. Students are expected to grab food and eat it during one of their sporadic Activity or X periods or actually in class.

I address this next part to students at Hanover High School. You may already have been conditioned to think that not having a lunch break is acceptable or even normal. Well, it’s not. Common decency dictates that all people in our care deserve a lunch break. It’s a basic sign of respect, and in most places it’s a legal requirement. Bakers get lunch breaks. Construction workers get lunch breaks. Doctors and nurses get lunch breaks. Prisoners get lunch breaks. All of the people who work in your building get lunch breaks. The school is contractually obligated to give your teachers lunch breaks. The administrators get lunch breaks. The para-professionals get lunch breaks. Everybody gets a lunch break but you.

The Hanover High school web page presents the school’s mission statement:

“Hanover High School is an active learning community that provides broad academic and co-curricular programs. We engage students’ minds, hearts and voices so that they become educated, caring and responsible adults.”

I question whether the school is run by “caring and responsible adults.” What sort of caring and responsible adult would organize a school that doesn’t show the basic level of respect to its students that a lunch period demonstrates? I think the school needs to engage students’ stomachs, as well as their hearts and minds, and I urge students to engage their voices and demand to be treated like human beings, with dignity, decency, and lunch.

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7 Responses to Cutting Lunch from the Menu at Public Schools

  1. OH!!! OH!!! I WENT to Hannover High School! “Hanover High School does not have a lunch period.”

    Guess what? When I graduated in 1986 we did not have a lunch period either!!!!!!!!! It was only that during classes directly before or after the lunch hour, the teachers were not allowed to not allow students to eat.

    Ok. That sentence is as far as I got. I’ll go back & keep reading now.


  2. Oh…an also…apparently they did not teach me to spell “Hanover” at HHS. Maybe that’s why they called it Hangover.


  3. “Bakers get lunch breaks. Construction workers get lunch breaks. Doctors and nurses get lunch breaks. Prisoners get lunch breaks.” But teachers don’t always. Maybe that’s where this comes from. I mean, by law teachers do. But I’ve worked in schools where the principal requires that teachers stay with their class during a certain amount of that break. And so if actually you’re working and not on a break…that’s not really a break.

    Anyway, nice post. I’ve often thought back to that time and wondered what they were actually teaching us by telling us that it was not important to have a lunch break. I worked through lunch for lots of years before realizing that I was better off actually taking a break. And it wasn’t even me! It was a coworker I depended on who demanded that we stop working and take a real break before I realized it was something that really should happen.


    • EricIndiana says:

      Aha! So it does teach insane work habits. I think that homework also sends a bad message – that we should be taking our work home with us and working for hours off the clock.

      Anyway, thanks for your comments; I was nervous that Hanover folks would be defensive and tell me about how eliminating lunch is what gives them the edge – all those 26 minute daily periods adding up to hundreds of hours of more time to prepare to get into Dartmouth, where they can eat lunch all day.


      • 🙂
        Well…truth be told, I spent most of my free time in high school in the art room, so I don’t know that the whole “rush to Dartmouth” thing really applies to me. I obviously knew my fair share of ivy league bound students though, and although I’ve never actually discussed the lack of lunch period with them, I’ve never heard it casually mentioned as the key to their success either…

        I’m also against homework, or at least what homework has morphed into these days. At least at the elementary school level, it bears no resemblance to the homework I knew at all.


  4. Kim says:

    That’s ridiculous. I once was, and am now the parent of, the kind of kid whose mind wins out over body signals. If my school had not had a scheduled lunch break and we had not been herded to the cafeteria, I would not have eaten between leaving home in the morning and arriving home at night.

    And yes, I agree that it sounds like conditioning for workaholics.


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