PEQUOT LAKES -- Some Pequot Lakes sixth-graders call it "bunch" -- not quite breakfast but eating at 10:35 a.m. each day is too early to be called their school lunch.
And as school district officials try to find better ways to feed all the sixth- through 12-grade students at the high school in a timely way, they've also recognized that the sixth-graders are eating too early into their school day, causing the younger middle school students to grow hungry by afternoon.
Starting this week, sixth-graders will be invited to bring healthy snacks to school to be eaten between 12:45 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. in their classrooms when their teachers find the best break in their schedule. No junk food, like candy or cookies, will be allowed, said middle level principal Randy Hansen. Just fruit, granola bars and other foods to keep their hunger at bay before the school day ends and until the district can find a way to feed them closer to the noon hour.
"I'd like that," sixth-grader Austin Nelson said of having an afternoon snack. "I'm always eating dinner at 3 p.m."
"It doesn't make sense," Stephanie Eckardt said of their 10:35 a.m. lunch time. "You eat breakfast and two hours later you eat lunch. At 4 p.m. you're really hungry."
"When you get on the bus you want to eat something but you can't eat on the bus," added Nykole Holmes, also a sixth-grader.
The school used to have two lunch lines operating at the same time before Eagle View Elementary opened in 2003, but half of the lunchroom staff was sent out to Eagle View when the elementary "This is very, very early," school cook Valerie Derksen said as she helped serve lunch to sixth-graders Tuesday morning. "We did have a few kids who said 'This is my snack.'"
Derksen, who along with fellow cook Chris Collicott prepares meals for the middle and high school students, said each of the six lunch periods are about 25 minutes long. It usually means that students have about 10-15 minutes to eat once they get through the line. However, the eighth-grade lunch period and one of the high school lunch periods overlap by about five to eight minutes, which means eighth-graders have to leave their lunchroom seats as soon as they are finished eating so a high schooler may sit down. Eighth-graders are then sent to hang out in the commons area for the remainder of their lunch period to visit with their friends, said Hansen.
School officials plan to meet this week to try to come up with ways to resolve the problem of sixth-graders eating too early, said Hansen. They hope to move back their lunch period to at least 11 a.m. if possible within the next few weeks, he said.
Until then, the district's 142 sixth-graders will have to bring a snack. Hansen said Superintendent Percy Lingen came up with the idea of an afternoon snack time for sixth-graders as a temporary solution.
"We figure the snacks will help the kids get through the day now," said Hansen.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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