38 answers

School Snacks

My son is in 3rd grade and their grade gets lunch at 1:30. They currently have no snack time set aside for these kids. On the first day of school I sent a nice note to the teacher requesting that the kids be allowed a snack time as from 8:40 - 1:30 is a long time for kids between meals, and add to that the fact that I leave for work at 7:15 so my son gets breakfast at around 6:45 ish as do many kids in his grade because their parents work. According to him he is "so hungry he could eat an elephant" and from experience I know how his focus and behavior is when he is that hungry. Anyway, the response to my letter is that "snack time would be disruptive to the schedule and could be "problematic" for the kids who don't bring snack. I plan on taking this beyond the 3rd grade team and to the administration if I have to. Every other public elementary school in my county gets a snack except for ours and there don't appear to be any problems with it and my husband subs in the schools and sees how it works. My son told me on Thursday that he overheard one of the teachers say that "there never was a snack time for these kids and never will be" so I know we will probably have to fight for a snack time as they don't seem to want to work with us and I do have many parents on my side who are writing to request snack as well. Could you please give my ideas as to how snack times work at your childs school and if there are any problems with it. I would like to be able to provide some solutions to the teachers when I next communicate with them. Thanks for all your help.

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I just want to say that any school that doesn't allow young children to eat between 7.30 and 1.30 is not only being educationally unsound, but almost cruel. I'm sorry that you have to fight for this, and I tend to be non-confrontational with school admins (as a teacher, I know they work hard) but I would take this all the way to the top if I had to.

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You have gotten great advice so far. I would add that you might want to bring a note from the doctor letting the principal know the medical reasons why a child @ this age needs to have a snack and especially water.
L. M

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Do not meet with the teacher since they don't make the final decisions, the principal does. Set up a meeting with him/her and discuss this with them and if they don't give you an answer that is at least working towards a solution then I would go to the administrative offices for the schools to discuss it with them there. Go to the superintendent if you have to. Someone will listen to you then, the squeaky wheel gets the grease in my opinion.

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I have a Mom friend, whoes kids are now in college, but when they were in kindergarten they had "food" issues, and also needed naps. Kindergarten was full day at our local catholic school back then. So she requested a half day accomodation. The school never answered the request one way or another. So on the third week of kindergarten she sent her son. (Please note this Mom is a graduate of the school.) Then at 11:30 she just showed up to pick him up. She did this for three or four days, and then someone finally said she couldn't keep doing this. She said, now you are finally giving me an answer to my request! Can I get it in writting? They then backed off and gave her permission to do it everyday.

My suggested is this:

1. write a note to the Principal, and ask for a reply in 10 days (cc the teachers) If you can get a note from your pediatrician supporting your claim include a copy.

2. While your waiting for a reply, show up every day at roughly the same time, with as many Mom as you can, and bring your child a snack. (Claim your there for a "doctor" appointment. Take him outside do the snack and then return him.) For Mom's that work, send in a note so a non-working Mom who agrees to help can have permission to take your child to the "doctors appointment."

3. If the 10 days lapses and you have no reply, or the answer is no. Write directly to the superintended, and "cc" the school board. Sending copies of what you sent to the teachers and any reply you recieved. Include a list or number count of all the parents who have started showing up to give their child snack. In this letter stated that you are formally requesting a 504 plan (This refers to section 504 of the Rehabilitiation Act of 1975, it will cause the school stress if you say this.) for you son, because "going this long without food impairs his ability to learn."

4. While you keep going and giving him snack (or maybe stage a "sick day" and have a bunch of Mom's keep their kid home on the same day). They may try to stop you, but you have every right to pick your child up in the middle of the day, particularly if you have the doctor's note supporting his need for a snack.

5. I would also consider contacting a local news outlet, the newspaper, TV or radio, and inviting them to join you all for snack. The school will not like the negative publicity. Also the reporter could call the school to get their side of the problem, which will get someone's attention.

Good Luck! You are very right about the need for snack, and if you don't fight for it, it will be a matter of time before the school will try to say your son has ADHD because he cannot pay attention and do his work. The guy is just hungry. Good Luck!

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I would go to the principal next. At our school they are also allowed to have water bottles. It has been proven that when kids are hungry and dehydrated (considering they go most of the day with little to drink) test scores are lower. I have never heard of such a late lunch. Don't they think kids get low blood sugars? It isn't disruptive nor is it an issue for the other kids who don't bring one, they just don't make a big deal out of it.

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Check your local school code regarding meals. You could also threaten going to the local papers. Quote nutrition and educational articles regard focus and snacks and meals for children. Also send copies to your school board members as well as the principal and ask the other parents to do the same. Good Luck this is a fight worth having.
J. O

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I just want to say that any school that doesn't allow young children to eat between 7.30 and 1.30 is not only being educationally unsound, but almost cruel. I'm sorry that you have to fight for this, and I tend to be non-confrontational with school admins (as a teacher, I know they work hard) but I would take this all the way to the top if I had to.

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When my daugther was in second grade (several years ago) we had a similar situation. Her class's lunch was very late and, while they did permit snack time, there were many lower income kids who didn't have one and I was very upset that these children were hungry as well and had to watch others eating (even though my daughter did have her snack everyday). I volunteered to go to Costco and get a big barrel of pretzels and a large container of graham crackers for the classroom and asked that the teacher please pass them out at snack time to those who didn't have anything. A few other parents joined me and it really wasn't a major cost for us, since the supplies lasted several weeks and I knew all the children were able to get a little boost during those long hours. The real challenge may be getting your school to allow the snacks at all. Food allergies are so prevalent now that there may be issues with gluten, peanuts etc. However they really shouldn't expect young children to go that long without eating. They can't possibly be learning anything when all they can think about are their growling tummies. Maybe they could cut back on recess or a special just by 10 minutes to allow them to grab a quick snack. Another suggestion would be for parents to take turns volunteering for just 15 minute or so each morning to help get things over quickly, neatly and without major transition problems.

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Hi C.,

I would DEFINITELY take it to the next level!!! I taught fourth grade, and we had last lunch - about the same timing as your son. There are many easy ways for a teacher to work snack into the schedule. And as far as snacks for kids that don't bring one, the teacher can purchase a large tin/barrel etc. of animal crackers for around five dollars. It ends up lasting an extremely long time, because the kids that did not bring snack, simply take something out of their lunch to eat at snack time, so kids w/o snack are very few, if any.

I cannot believe the teacher will not listen to your suggestion. I liked having snack when I taught - we called it a working snack (like a working lunch in an office) and the kids did their journal writing as they ate. When journal time was over, snack was over. AND the best part was, I got to eat a snack too - that is a long time to wait for lunch for an adult too!!

Good luck! As a teacher, I would say that going to the next level is acceptable because you asked the teacher first. You are not going over her head because you addressed it with her first. You are doing the right thing! This schedule is not something the kids 'adjust to'. It is too long of a time period before lunch - simple as that.

Let us know how it goes,

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My son goes to a Catholic school with preschool through 8th grade. All of the kids are encouraged to bring a healthy snack and water every day and they eat it during a morning class or work time. He starts at 8 and has lunch at 11:40 and they still manage to fit in the snack. They just bring in something simple like cereal bars or granola bars or a little baggie of fruit, etc. The parents take turns sending boxes of crackers or pretzels to keep in the classroom for the children that might forget their snacks once in a while.

It just seems to be common sense that children would be more productive if they are not starving--especially with the long time your son's class has to wait for lunch. I would be shaking waiting that long. Possibly talk to the other schools in your county with the snack time in place and find out how they got it passed. I love the media idea, also!!

Good for you for being a child advocate!!

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1:30pm is sooooooooo long for a little one to wait until lunch without having had a snack............. not to mention, any good teacher would have brains enough to know that kids do better when they have been fed and hydrated....
this needs to be taken a step up... you are probably not the only parent concerned... my child needs something about every 2 1/2 to 3 hours in order for him to keep his energy up and so that by dinner he isn't famished......
kid's brains , let alone bodies are developing at this age and people may forget that "growing" takes calories.............. also, worst than not enough food when your body so needs it is WATER.. some kids already don't get enough of it... it's the body's gasoline.... to deprive kids a snack time is crazy...... I would definitely talk to admin..
best of luck!!

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I am shocked at this. I am a former teacher and we always had snack time if our lunch was scheduled either on the early or late side of the day. I never found it to be disruptive as long as ground rules were set out and enforced from the beginning. I have done it successfully 2 different ways.

1) We had group snack. Parents signed up to bring an extra large bag/box of pre-approved items (Goldfish, cereal, popcorn, pretzels, etc) and we all shared out of the bag. When we started getting low, I contacted the next parent in line. Not everyone donated, but 90% did and were more than happy to.

2) Each child was responsible for bringing his/her own healthy snack. (We had a class meeting at the beginning of the year and discussed this.) If they bought something not approved (like candy or potato chips) they had to keep it until lunch. I did always keep some extras on hand for kids I knew that would not have their own snack for whatever reason. (That never bothered me one bit)

I usually had snack time either during centers or during a work time when I was not doing a direct teach/learning game/etc. We talked about what snack time would look like and what was acceptable/unacceptable ahead of time and I enforced consequences when rules were not followed (which was VERY rarely). Like I said, it was never an issue for me at all.

If I were you, I would try to talk to the teachers again and bring some research and ideas. If that doesn't work, tell them you plan to escalate. Then I would start by talking to the principal and maybe even the school nurse. If that doesn't work, go to the central administration office. If that doesn't work, go to the school board. If that doesn't work, go to the media.

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if they wont agree with you after going to the principle i'd go to school myself everyday at the midway point from his breakfast and his lunch time and bring him a snack. go to his room and have him come out in the hall to eat then send him back in. if they want their sol scores to be good then they should provide a time for them to snack. i dont see why apple slices cant be eaten during reading time or while they listen to the teacher discuss a topic. i was very happy to meet my daughters teacher yesterday who said that they will be able to bring any beverage they choose to class and he even has two refrigerators in the room for their things.

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Here in Groton, MA, even the middle schoolers get a snack time. Either in the AM is lunch is late or in the PM if lunch is early. I would fight this one, you got some great ideas below.

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Good luck, and until you get it figured out, if your child likes hard bolied eggs, add one to his breakfast. They are hard to digest and it will hold off the hunger longer. If need be, perhaps you could get a doctor's note saying he has to eat at certain intervals. I feel your pain; I had a daughter who would go ballistic when hungry!!!

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At our school they have snack with morning recess. the latest lunch shift is 12:40 for the 1st grade and kindy extended care, and all the 1st grade teachers put a blurb in their welcome letters stating that their kids have a late lunch so please pack them a nutritious snack. Some teachers would have a bin where kids would put their snack containers (labeled with their names) when they arrive at school in the morning, so they wouldn't have to rummage through lunch boxes at snack time. Since your husband subs in other local schools, could he bring an example of another school's bell/snack schedule and/or policy if they have anything written in the parent handbook?

As for snack being "problematic" for kids who don't bring snack - I assume at least some of these kids *do* bring a lunch (and would probably be relieved to have a chance to take something out of their lunch to eat at snack time if they had the opportunity).

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You have gone to the teacher. Now go to the principal. Then the Superintendant. Also go to your pediatrician, get it in writing. THen they HAVE to allow him to have a snack.
My daughter needs to eat. If she misses a snack then she gets lighthead, she has fainted twice in school.

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I Understand you completely - thankfully we have snack time here for the late lunch eaters. Some suggestions

1) Get every Parent who you know is writting letters to get something from the Pediatrician/Dr stating that these children need snack for various reasons (every one must me valid - which they will be - attention/hunger/etc)

2) Do your research and get the facts to back it up (medical and educational) Ask the Principals at the other schools about the policy and why they do it

3) Speak to the Principal

4) Go to the school board

If all else fails go to the Media.

BTW findout exactly which teachers said that comment and make sure the principal knows that it is being said

The High School I went to was a very academically tough school and we had Morning & Afternoon Snack Breaks b/c it was proven that mini-meals helped with focus/concentration and academics

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Fight this one, C.. My kids have taken a snack to school every day regardless of their lunch schedule. I also work in an elementary school and I can tell you, if it is properly managed, it is NOT disruptive. Here are some of my observations:

1.) The older kids learn responsibility. If they forget a snack, the teacher usually reminds them to pack it the night before. Good idea.

For the younger kids, the teachers usually ask for donations of graham crackers, or pretzels, something that is easily stored and doesn't require refridgeration. If a kiddo forgets, they get a teacher snack (it is usually something not very desireable so that the kids will learn to remember to bring their own). Other donations have been boxes of Cherios, etc.

2.) There are sooooo many "transitional" times during the day that are appropriate for a snack. They can do it as they prepare for recess, between math and reading (kids usually need a bathroom break about this time, too).

3.) It's not like you're asking for a four-course meal to be served. Eating a snack should take less than five minutes and some teachers use a timer. That helps with the control issues. The kids are also expected to clean up after themselves.

That's my two cents as somebody who spends her day in an elementary school and I think your school is being unreasonable. There are so many studies out their linking learning and behavior with empty stomachs. Please keep us posted! Good luck!

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Do not meet with the teacher since they don't make the final decisions, the principal does. Set up a meeting with him/her and discuss this with them and if they don't give you an answer that is at least working towards a solution then I would go to the administrative offices for the schools to discuss it with them there. Go to the superintendent if you have to. Someone will listen to you then, the squeaky wheel gets the grease in my opinion.

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You have gotten great advice so far. I would add that you might want to bring a note from the doctor letting the principal know the medical reasons why a child @ this age needs to have a snack and especially water.
L. M

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At my son's school they have the option of eating their snack (if they brought one) at the beginning of their outdoor play time. It takes about 5 minutes because they bring the snack outside with them. It sounds more like teacher laziness. For the ones who don't bring a snack they can go ahead and play or read during that 5 or ten minutes. If worse comes to worse pack your son a snack and have him eat it during a bathroom break. Good luck.

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My kids have snack while they work. They aren't allowed to trade food and if it gets disruptive they lose the privilege for the day. 1:30 is crazy late to eat lunch, i would not be able to wait that long myself. My blood sugar levels would be so low there is no way i would be able to focus on anything but my hunger! Good luck.

Print out some articles about how healthy food effects kids learning, and hunger effects their learning and behavior, about schools regulating that snacks cannot have sugar as the main ingredient and fight for what is best for these kids. I bet there are some kids who don't eat breakfast!
If you can get a petition signed make sure you get parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds, so they cant say snack time would only benefit middle class kids. Some parents have to be told more than once to send in snack and some have to be told more than once to make it healthy but in the end I;m guessing where I teach 90% of the time 90% of the kids have snacks. We solve your problem by giving older kids earlier lunch and smaller kids snack time, but that wont work for you this year.
good luck! Offer to buy a large box of generic cheerios and napkins for the teacher to share with kids who forget (make it boring so kids will try to bring from home) If the problem is stopping working then parents can only send in Neat snacks (cereal, grapes, apples, water, cheese sticks) that can be consumed while kids continue to work-no yogurt or pudding or sticky juice)

Disruptive? I would think a classroom full of starving kids would be disruptive. Shesh, of all the dumb things, to withhold food from kids.

I usually eat breakfast at 8:30 or 9 and I'm starving by 12:30....I can't imagine going from 8 to 1:30, what on Earth are they thinking???

GL in your fight!!!

Totally agree with you about the children needing a snack even if they were having breakfast after 8. 5 1/2-6hrs is too long for youngsters to go and be at their best. Knowing the goodness of most teachers and the genuine concern most school personnel have for our children, I am taken aback at the reaction to your request. There shouldn't have to be any "fight" about this. As long as teachers and parents both behave as adults and respect each other, problems can be quickly resolved. It's not a "them" and an "us". Both sides have valid issues that need to be addressed and validated for the good of "our" children.
Until this is resolved, I am wondering if since your son has to have breakfast so early due to your needs, could he also have an energy bar or something high protein right before 8:30 before he arrives at school?
I'd take with a huge grain of salt anything reported to you as being "said" by teacher/s. I wouldn't advise letting your child even be in on any kind of friction going on over this or any other school issue. Children need to see parents and school working together and behaving like adults, so discussions about resolving this need to be without children.
Hope you get this resolved soon and your children get what is in their best interest.

That is awful. We offer snack time at school and I think it is something definitely needed for kids who have a later lunch. It is 10 minutes set aside and they will do an activity like a word search while they have snack and when the time is up, they clean up their little bit of mess and get right back to work. Also, our kids are allowed to keep a water bottle at thier desk all day for hydration. Good luck to you, but I think its worth the fight!

At my son's old school the only way for *any* child to get a snack was to have them sent daily to the nurse's office for it. My son's K class had lunch at 1030, but the school didn't let out until after 4pm. Same *stupid* problem. The kids were all losing it by 2pm. He was the only one in his class who "lucked out" by being hypoglycemic, so he got to go to the nurse's office with a classmate every day... but only once. It was very very hard all year on all of the kids. We left after that year, so I don't know how the rest of them have faired.

I think it is great you are choosing to advocate!

You have gotten a lot of great suggestions so far. I would like to add that you could gain the involvement and support of other parents at the school. You could form a committee about it, or at the very least a petition that could be presented at the next school board meeting. I would love to hear how it turns out. Good luck!

We had the same problem when my son was in 3rd grade. His school had a small cafeteria so they had to have lunch in shifts. They were 3rd shift and ate almost at the end of the day! Their teacher had no problems giving them time for a snack. They all went to their cubbies, pulled out their lunches and ate what they wanted from their lunch (no trading allowed in case of food allergies). No one had enough time to eat their whole lunch but a snack was doable. She allowed them to chat but they had to stay at their desks unless they got permission from her to go get water or similar. It was a 10-15 minute break - they ate and she sent them in shifts to use the bathroom. At the end, she would have everyone stand up by their desk and do a couple of stretches too. I thought it was handled perfectly and was much healthier for everyone - mentally and physically. If a kid didn't have a snack (which hardly ever happened) the teacher had a granola bar or similar stored away - parents either donated them or gave some $ for her to have prizes, snacks, etc. for the kids (I think she asked for something like $5 all year). It was so NOT a big deal. No one, adult or child, should be expected to go most of the day without a break - to stretch, use the bathroom, get water, eat, etc. That's ridiculous.

I am not in this boat, but very curious now. Do they not get a recess anytime before lunch? Do they not get any break till lunch? I don't think I could have survived at school like that.

Our 3rd grade teacher is taking snack time to learn about health. She has been teaching the children's how to read the nutrition labels on their snack items. They look for great snacks of the day.

Our school start at 7:55,
snack is at 9 it last 15 min.
lunch at 1o/c. out at 2:10.

In our school kindergartners got a snack because there lunch was so early. They had it during free play circle time in the afternoon and they could come to the table and eat what they brought in or not. Now in first grade, they were told too bad, the schedule was too structured and they would have to deal with it. I don't know what they couldn't have a little bag of something while they are doing some quiet reading. If the teachers approach it correctly, it shouldn't be too disruptive. I think that waiting that long to eat is hard on concentration for any child.

Snack time is not disruptive in my school at all. I just ask that my students bring a healthy, "working" snack. By working, I mean that they can eat it and still do their work. So, no dips, spoons, or forks should be used. I've never had a problem with it.

I would discuss this with the principal. If he/she does not agree, go to the superintendent. If again met with undesirable results, bring it to the board of education. There is plenty of research out there to show snacks can improve a child's concentration at school.

Yes that is TOO long to have lunch.
My daughter is in 3rd grade... they have lunch at 11:30.
Schools ends at 2:15

And at recess, the kids are allowed to bring snacks from home and they can eat it at recess. They have a morning recess before lunch and in the afternoon. And they can also bring water bottles to school to drink as needed. This is how it is, for ALL the grade levels at her school.
As such though, it is the parent's "responsibility" to provide snacks for their child, before coming to school and putting it in their backpack.
And in school, the children are not allowed to 'share' their snacks with other kids, in case a kid has an allergy. The only food item they cannot bring to school is anything with Peanuts or nuts in it.

To have a NO snack rule... this is really not good for kids.
What if a kid is hypoglycemic? Or Diabetic?
Regardless, a kid needs to have snacks... even an adult could NOT last that long....

You need to speak to the Principal.... I am sure you are not the only Parent worried about it.
I would be, if that were the situation for my daughter.
I would... be speaking to the school/Teacher about it.

AND, children cannot learn nor behave well... when they are starving or getting dizzy from lack of food. To have NO food in them, from breakfast time... is just TOOOOO long and not healthy.
And, many kids as well, do not even have breakfast before going to school.
At my daughter's school, they also serve breakfast, before the 8:00 bell.
This is a Public school. And that is what they do.

MAYBE, get a letter from your son's Pediatrician... STATING that he needs a snack mid-morning and in the afternoon.... that way, it is a DOCTOR specifying his requirements.

I find their rule against snacks.. to be VERY a big deal.
Do something about it.

Ditto what Jen O. said.

all the best,

Get a note from the doctor that requires that he go down to the office to get a snack. That way he's not starving and he is not disrupting the class.

My new 4th grader starts at 8:45 and I too have to be out the door for work much earlier than this. My kids go to a before school program (held in the cafeteria & gym) hosted by the YMCA. They are there from 7:45-8:45 and the school lunch service serves breakfast at 8:00...We pay to let them have breakfast but it is totally worth it. They are too sleepy to eat at home and it means they have a much smaller gap between meals.

My child's class has the last lunch of the day. They have a short snack time late in the morning. In order to avoid spending too much "instructional" time on snack, they can eat their snack while the teacher reads them a book or something like that. (They're in 1st grade). The teacher also sets a timer so that the kids know how much time they have to eat/drink, then they have to put it away when the timer goes off. If someone forgets a snack, I think the teachers sometimes have a stash of crackers...maybe the parents at your school can volunteer to stock the extra snacks in case someone forgets. Good Luck!

Our elementary school has some late lunches, 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades. The kids in those classes are permitted to bring their own snack. The only rule is, it has to be healthy, no candy or junk food. Kindergarten, 2nd and 4th have lunch in the middle of the day. They do not do a regular snack. 1st grade has a community snack passed out by the teacher (such as teddy grams). Parents always gladly donate food for 1st grade snack. The teachers in the classes that have snack are totally fine with it, as they know hungry kids are MORE disruptive and have a harder time learning. Teachers in 3rd, 5th, and 6th also have some community stash for kids who are hungry but do not have parents that can send snack with them.

Take this to the next level, they are being ridiculous. Insisit they they move the kids lunch hour, or provide a snack time. Yes, go meet with the principal, then the superintendant, then call the media.

Our elementary school only does it for kindergarten. Like another mom said one of my daughters is possibly hypoglycemic. When she was in elementary school our pediatrician wrote a note. I am pretty sure they sent her to the nurse to eat it. (we are going back a few years)

It would be nice if it was the norm. I give you credit for fighting it. It is a long day for the kiddies. The only downfall i see is the money. Some parents (including myself) will have a hard time supplying a lunch and a snack each day.

Some schools in our district do snacks and some don't. We had to send a daily snack for my older son when he was in 1st grade (they didn't do it in kindergarten). With my younger son in kindergarten this year (different school same district though) his teacher has all the parents sign up for 2 weeks to bring snacks for the entire class for those 2 weeks. It can be 2 weeks back to back or spread apart. She sends a note home the Thursday or Friday before with the child to remind the parent. There is also a list of "healthy" snacks on there for ideas. For this year and for my older son we sent animal crackers, graham crackers, gold fish, Cheeze Its, fruit. No candy or chocolate is acceptable. It really worked well for my kids to have a snack. I agree the long time in between lunch and other meals can be too long. Good luck in your fight for this !

I've never heard of a lunchtime so late. Usually kids around here have lunch at the latest by 1 and those are usually the oldest grades. My son's school has snack in either the morning for those classes with a later lunch or in the afternoon for those with an earlier lunch. When I taught third grade my students were given a working snack time in the mid morning and it had to be something that wasn't too messy-no spoons or straws. Things like snack crackers, pretzels, breakfast bars, grapes, etc...I, also, allowed my students to have a water bottle beside their desk throughout the day in case they got thirsty, but they weren't allowed to refill it at school. My students had no problem with any of this and it wasn't disruptive at all. I would speak to the principal and suggest nicely that the kids be allowed snack time and back it up with reasons why-go to the library and check out some books on nutrition or get some info from a pedi in the area. If that doesn't work keep moving up the ladder until you have exhausted all resources. Always be nice and get some other parents on your side. Talk to the PTA , too. Good luck!

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