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BYU study says lunchtime means more to students than food

Aug 16, 2022, 6:25 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2022, 2:21 pm

PROVO, Utah — A new BYU study revealed just how critical lunchtime is for students.

One of the key takeaways  students who enjoy lunchtime by socializing and being active actually improved their sense of belonging at the school.

 The research, which is being published in theJournal of Community Psychology, surveyed over 800 middle school students in Utah.

 Those students who enjoyed lunchtime were more likely to have a better sense of belonging at school, have better academics, and better mental health. 

“It is a very important part of the school day,” said Dr. Erin Feinauer Whiting who is the author of the study. “We need to stop thinking about lunch as only a time that people eat. Schools, parents, students, can think about lunch as a productive time for making connections and building belonging. There are lots and lots of creative things that can be done.”

And Dr. Whiting said having a sense of belonging at school is key to a student’s success.

“It’s a human need, that need for connection,” said Whiting. “School belonging is associated with all types of positive outcomes, academic, social, emotional.”

Students at Midvale Middle School agreed.

“After lunch, I can go straight to class and I feel like my mind has been refreshed,” said student Seth Young.

A study said students who enjoy socializing at lunchtime actually improve their sense of belonging. (KSL TV) A study said students who enjoy socializing at lunchtime actually improve their sense of belonging. (KSL TV) A study said students who enjoy socializing at lunchtime actually improve their sense of belonging. (KSL TV)

“I think it’s a very important part of the day because I can’t really focus in my last couple classes if my stomach is not full,” said student Natalia Shepard.“It kind of gives us a break from, like, focusing and we get to hang out with our friends and be social with everyone,” said student Alex Kennedy.

The study also showed that those students who are very active during lunch and are not eating alone or hanging out by themselves have much more of a sense of belonging.

That’s why Midvale Middle School principal Mindy Robinson said they have an ambassador program to make sure no one is alone during lunch.

“We actually have three to five mentors out there,” she said. “If we ever see a student alone, we go in and check with them. We actually help them find things. We also have a student ambassador program where students who are new to our school, they go and sit by them.”

Robinson also agreed that school lunch matters. “Our kids are great and they want to do well in the academics but we also know with the brain research that they need these brain breaks and lunch is a perfect time for that.”

The study also found that students who liked to be really active during lunch had the highest sense of belonging.

Researchers said this will provide some good tips for parents and schools across the state.

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BYU study says lunchtime means more to students than food