LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Due to the pandemic, the USDA has made school meals free for all students this school year, including those in the Clark County School District, but some families are saying they're worried students are not being given enough time to eat.
A former CCSD teacher said she isn't surprised to hear this.
"They'd have a meltdown, is what the parents would tell me," said Brittany Richey, who worked as a kindergarten teacher with the district, and later as a substitute. "They were having meltdowns like crazy after school because they were so tired and hungry ... They only get 20 minutes for lunch and 10 minutes for recess, so by the time they get to the cafeteria, it's already been about two or three minutes, and by the time they get through the line it's already been at least five minutes, and so they don't really have much time at all, especially the kindergarteners."
The CDC recommends kids have at least 20 minutes of seat time for lunch, a measure of time that begins once they've sat down with their food. Subsequently, the Nevada Department of Agriculture adopted this guidance.
"These things are basic human needs, and so without those being met, it's hard for students to learn at their full potential," Richey said.
It's a problem CCSD families have complained about for years, according to Nevada PTA President Rebecca Garcia, but some parents said they worry the problem has been compounded during the pandemic.
"I think it's a combination, again, of staffing, and I think there's more kids taking advantage of the hot lunch that's available at school and it's free," Garcia said.
It prompts a question in the age of COVID-19: How do you somehow try to structure lunches to become more safe, but feed a higher number of kids in such a short and compressed time?
Garcia also runs a CCSD Parents Facebook page. She said lunchtime issues and transportation issues are the two topics parents have been expressing the most frustration with since the start of the school year. She said many parents want to see change.
"There's a lot of parents that would support longer recesses, or more recesses and a longer lunch period," Garcia said.
But Garcia pointed out that longer lunches could mean extra costs for the district.
"You have to also then look at the financial ramifications of that, and whether or not the district can absorb it and whether or not teachers would accept a longer contract day," Garcia said.
It comes down to each individual principal how they manage it, which Garcia feels ultimately leads to this question: "How is the district supervising administrators in their planning?" she asked.
The CCSD communications office couldn't yet be reached for a response when FOX5 reached out Sunday.