In many schools, children spend around 8 hours for various activities. So, they need to get at least one regular meal and a snack during that time. However, this can be challenging for children who have eating disorders. Parents typically pack lunch for their children, to make sure that their children can eat properly. On the other hand, the school management should be aware of factors that may lead to eating issues among students:

  1. Sensory overload: For new, very young students, school cafeterias could turn into a real sensory overload. The school management should stop and reflect for a while to see how the cafeteria situation affects young children. The situation can be chaotic and deafening. Chairs and tables are placed very close; restricting movements. The scent could also nauseate many children. With such overload sensory inputs, it is acceptable to see if young students are affected emotionally.
  2. Poor socialization: Lunch time is a very social time in the school and it’s not a good experience for some children. Verbal attacks and bullying may affect some children. This can have an impact on their eating habit. Other students have too much of a good time. They do many silly things and laugh a lot. This could also disrupt the eating patterns of young students and there are so many things in the cafeteria that can become the source of frustration. The school management should pay attention to things that can reduce the amount of time children spend eating in the cafeteria. Children who have motor difficulties will find it even harder to deal with problems in cafeteria. Social stigmatization is a real issue in many schools and it could intensify during lunch in cafeteria.
  3. Limited time: The lunch session in school may be limited to only 20 minutes. It’s a really short time for many children. They will need to walk to the cafeteria, stand in queue, look for empty chair and deal with so many obstructions. This can be a problem for slow eaters and they will feel the pressure to eat more quickly. As they struggle to eat in the shortest amount of time, they may not chew the food enough and they eat only a small portion.

The school management should take these factors into consideration. Young students often feel overwhelmed and distressed, while losing their focus. Eventually, some students start to give up and shut down. They don’t see the lunch session as something enjoyable and they barely eat. It is a good idea for the school management to improve the layout of the cafeteria, to make it easier for small students to eat. Find out about potential sources of sensory overloads. The problem can be quite significant when we consider that each child has different perspective and preferences about what to eat and how to eat. Students should also be encouraged to socialize in a proper way. Teachers should be responsive to any report of verbal abuse and bullying in the school.