What Are the Pros and Cons of an Open Lunch Session at School?

Benefits of open lunch sessions at schools include giving students more diverse and nutritionally sound food options and exercising responsibility, while cons include inviting deviant behavior and putting responsibility on school staff for ensuring students' safety. During open lunch sessions, some schools offer students the choice of leaving school grounds, provided they return later in the day, while others let students have free time, provided they stay on school grounds. Students have the option of dining elsewhere during the normal lunch hour; some administrators say granting students that freedom promotes healthy eating and socializing, while others raise concerns over traffic fatalities and accidents.

Open lunch sessions vary among school districts. Some give all children the option for leaving school during that time, while others use the open lunch policy as a reward. They reserve off-campus lunch permissions for older students, such as high school juniors and seniors.

Administrators note that open lunch policies work for upper-class students, but that draws complaints of unfair treatment from underclassmen. Those students complain of having reduced options for lunch because of their age, and enjoy less diverse and healthy foods than students choosing off-campus vendors. However, administrators and some parents show relief over banning open lunch policies, citing safety concerns when students leave campus on foot or in cars. Some schools respond to parents' fears over student safety and inadequate nutrition by offering healthy meal choices at lunchtime, even reducing or eliminating food costs as incentives for having students remain on campus.