Should Students Be Allowed to Eat in Class? Here's What Teachers Have to Say (Opinion) (2023)

Should Students Be Allowed to Eat in Class? Here's What Teachers Have to Say (Opinion) (1)
Larry Ferlazzo

Opinion Contributor, Education Week

Larry Ferlazzo is an English and social studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.

The new question-of-the-week is:

What are your recommendations for how teachers should handle students eating in class?

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Our students often seem like they are always hungry—some due to their families’ economic conditions, some because they got up too late to eat breakfast, and some because their growing bodies just need to eat a lot.

I’m a high school teacher and always have crackers and other nonsugary snacks in my cupboard. My students know if they are really hungry, they can always get something from there and eat it inside or outside the classroom, depending on the time and the weather. My food’s availability has hardly ever been abused.

Also, except during most of the last school year when our district had a mask mandate, I’ve always explained to students that eating in class can be distracting. However, I also tell students that if we are working in small groups, and if they are able to focus and not make a mess, that they can eat their own snacks during that time. This rule has seemed to work well.

Today, let’s hear how four other educators handle the “eating in class” question.

Michael Pershan, Deborah Offner, Ashley Kearney, and Vivian Micolta Simmons have contributed responses.

No, With Exceptions

Michael Pershan is a math teacher and writer in N.Y.C. He is the author of the book Teaching Math With Examples:

I tell students—from 3rd to 12th grades—that they can’t eat in my class. I explain it’s because they need their hands for writing. If they protest, I shrug and explain that it’s a school rule.

I’m actually not totally sure if it is a rule at my school, but I think it should be. I have learned that there is no such thing as silent eating. Food is generally crunchy, slimy, or sticky, and often, it’s two out of the three. And, like in the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, it’s never just the food. If you let a student eat a granola bar, they’re going to ask to get a drink. If they get a drink, they’ll spill it on the desk. To clean up the spill, they’ll need a paper towel. But if there are no towels in the bathroom. …

So, yes, I am an annoying hardliner about eating in class.

And yet, even as I write this, I can’t help but think of all the times I’ve made exceptions to this rule. At summer school, when the train was delayed and the program was providing breakfast, which the student missed. Last year, when a serious and conscientious high school senior asked if she could finish her lunch in the first few minutes of my calculus class. And the many times when a homeroom teacher hands a 3rd grader a pretzel rod right before my math lesson.

When I ask students to put their snacks away, I sometimes encourage them to put it on my desk, which both removes the item while keeping it visible, reassuring them that the food hasn’t gone anywhere, and they’ll get it back eventually. I tell students to take one last bite, and often, then they sneak in a second one, which I’ll pretend not to see.

Teaching is I think often like this. We need to have reasonable rules and clear standards so we can focus on learning while avoiding endless haggling and negotiation about our expectations. At the same time, we are dealing with children, and a certain amount of compassion and flexibility is called for.

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Some educators may let students eat in class, seeing it as a case where flexibility should take precedence over the learning environment. But I say that “no food” is a valuable rule to have and enforce, as much as we reasonably can.

Should Students Be Allowed to Eat in Class? Here's What Teachers Have to Say (Opinion) (2)

Yes, ‘Within Certain Parameters’

Deborah Offner is a clinical psychologist and former dean of students who has worked in schools and colleges for 25 years. She is the author of Educators as First Responders: A Teacher’s Guide to Adolescent Development and Mental Health, Grades 6-12:

At the end of my first lecture of the semester, a college student approached me sheepishly.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’m not sure if you noticed that I was eating during class. ... I had field hockey practice right before, and this was the first chance I had to eat.”

“I didn’t notice, actually,” I said, “and it’s totally fine.” Of course you must have been hungry after your practice. Not a problem!”

My student’s intuitive regard for the formality of our classroom environment was one of the things that distinguished her from the middle school students with whom I’d spent that morning. And the first time her snack came to my attention—or, I suspect, anyone else’s—was when she announced it to me. In a class of 40 students, a 19-year-old’s stealthy protein bar consumption doesn’t hit a professor’s radar. Of course, a 4th grader scarfing down a yogurt parfait during math—yogurt dribbling onto their desk, granola spilling onto the floor—is another story.

Despite the potential for both distraction and mess, students may need to eat in your classroom for a variety of reasons, most importantly, because hungry students can’t concentrate on learning! Some students skip breakfast at home and/or at schools where it’s offered due to tight morning schedules or not having an appetite first thing in the morning. Many fewer students miss lunch, though this happens, too. Finally, growing children and teenagers often need nutritional “reinforcements” between meals because, as most teachers and parents know, some of them are simply hungry all the time! My general advice is that eating in the classroom should be allowed, within certain parameters, and with plenty of paper towels and trash cans nearby.

Here are some guidelines for handling student eating in your classroom. Like most issues, they vary according to grade level.

For younger students (5th grade and below) establish a classroomwide snack time. This is more important in the morning, though you may want to add an afternoon snack time, depending on the time span between lunchtime and the end of the school day. Taking time (10-15 minutes) to eat together ensures that students have the opportunity to eat if they’re hungry. It allows you to manage noise and mess collectively, directing students to dispose of trash and clean off their desks all at once. And a bonus is built-in social, movement, and relaxation time that allows students to recharge between lessons.

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It’s optimal (though by no means guaranteed) that your school provides classroom snacks, for equity’s sake, as some students’ families don’t have consistent or reliable access to food. If you are not able to provide snacks, have students bring them from home. If your classroom budget allows, you can also offer parents the option of purchasing snacks you order in bulk, rather than sending their own food. The upside of this add-on is that if a subset of parents report it would be a financial hardship for them to provide a snack, you can “comp” their children’s food without distinguishing them from those who are able to pay.

For older students (6th grade and above), consider allowing students to eat at their own initiative during class, as long as they adhere to specific guidelines and stipulations. These include the following:

Eating is allowed as long as it’s not overly messy, noisy, or disruptive, and students clean up! Place more than one trash can in the room so it’s easy for students to dispose of waste. Insist that eating does not distract the student or their classmates.

Remember, older students should be able to engage in a contract of sorts regarding a privilege that’s important to them. If one of them strays, the pressure of the group will bring them back on board. The agreement is simple: If they want the freedoms of my college student, they must aspire to act more like her!

Should Students Be Allowed to Eat in Class? Here's What Teachers Have to Say (Opinion) (3)

‘An Opportunity to Build Relationships’

Ashley Kearney is an award-winning educator focusing on systemic changes that can support the whole child:

There are various reasons why a student may eat in class. Assuming there is not a school rule, which may need to be examined if it exists, teachers can use students’ frequent need to eat in their class as an opportunity to build relationships while also educating one another.

I taught all boys at one point, and one of the best things that I could do, taking allergies into consideration, was set up a PB&J and water table. Students would remind me about the grocery store run or bring bread to restock. There were certain times it was appropriate to get a snack and water that didn’t require asking me and doing so during natural pauses within the broader structures of the class and honoring the time necessary for tasks. This was in high school where mutual understanding and strong relationships were built. I’d argue that it helped to form deeper relationships of trust and respect with some students.

Set up a snack bar and use it as an opportunity to practice community norms. Learn about the different foods from different cultures represented in the class, nutritious foods, or even just the impact of certain foods on the brain. My view is that everything does not have to be seen as a problem. Instead, it might be an opportunity.

Should Students Be Allowed to Eat in Class? Here's What Teachers Have to Say (Opinion) (4)
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‘Designate a Snack Time’

Vivian Micolta Simmons was born in Colombia and has been in the United States for seven years. She has been a teacher for 14 years and is currently working as a ESL/DLI lead teacher for the Iredell-Statesville schools in North Carolina:

Honestly, I have never had an issue with students eating in class as long as we set a time for it. I get it; I have gotten hungry at random times during the day and I will be against prohibiting a student from eating in class.

Think about our students coming from Central and South America. In Colombia, our schedule for instruction time ran from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Right at 10 a.m., we would stop for a recess (eat a snack and play), then go from 10:30 a.m. to12:30 p.m., stop for lunch, and then end our academic day.

It was a shock for me when I first got to the U.S.A. and I had to teach straight from 7:00 until 11 or 12, with no snack break in between. Or other times where my lunchtime will fall right at 10:30 a.m. (I was not ready for lunch at that time.)

As long as we designate a snack time in class (no matter the age of the students) and we are aware of possible allergies among our group of students, I see no problem with students eating in class. I want to eat, too!

Should Students Be Allowed to Eat in Class? Here's What Teachers Have to Say (Opinion) (5)

Thanks to Michael, Deborah, Ashley, and Vivian for contributing their thoughts!

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled .

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  • Listen Up: Give Teachers a Voice in What Happens in Their Schools
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  • Educators Weigh In on Implementing the Common Core, Even Now
  • What’s the Best Professional-Development Advice? Teachers and Students Have Their Say
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The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Should students be allowed to eat in the classroom? ›

As long as students clean up after themselves and don't interrupt instruction, they should be allowed to eat and drink water in class. In order to keep up the pace, and be in top metal and physical condition, students constantly need to keep their bodies fueled, making proper nutrition and hydration a must.

Should teachers express their opinions in class? ›

In fact, teachers disclosing their beliefs can help students learn to think critically, Journell said. Being introduced early on to the idea that adults have individual viewpoints helps young people understand the concept of bias and better distinguish between fact and opinion, he said.

Why should students be allowed to eat snacks in class? ›

So, letting a student have a snack during class is a good idea, to help them concentrate so they are not hungry or counting down the minutes until lunch.

Why is it important for students to eat? ›

Healthy students are better learners. Research shows that eating habits [PDF – 480 KB] and healthy behaviors are connected to academic achievement. Student participation in the School Breakfast Program is associated with better grades and standardized test scores, reduced absences, and improved memory.

How does eating affect students? ›

Research has shown that students are able to learn better when they're well nourished, and eating healthy meals has been linked to higher grades, better memory and alertness, and faster information processing.

Why is it important for students to express their opinions? ›

If students cannot express opinions, it is feared that students will experience various disorders and obstacles in achieving learning success. This can be considered as an obstacle for students to succeed in learning because the ability to express opinions will show their ability to think (Diah Ayu P, 2015).

How important is having an opinion to a student? ›

It's necessary for students to identify arguments but even more so to develop their own. Allowing students opportunities to express these opinions is especially beneficial when applying our content standards to real-world scenarios.

Does a student have the right to express his her opinions and beliefs in school? ›

According to the American Civil Liberties Union: "You (students) have a right to express your opinions as long as you do so in a way that doesn't 'materially and substantially' disrupt classes or other school activities.

What are teachers not allowed to say? ›

It prohibits them from discussing "nontraditional gender identities" and in many cases forbid[s] teachers from discussing controversial events that would presumably include, in many cases, ones like gay marriage or LGBTQ rights.

What can teachers not do to students? ›

20 Things Teachers Do At School That Feel Illegal But Definitely...
  • Grading papers during staff meetings (and class) Multitasking is a skill, not something to look down upon. ...
  • Having another teacher watch our class while we pee. ...
  • Sending a student to the office. ...
  • Writing brief plans. ...
  • Sending a student as a messenger.
Feb 1, 2023

How does not eating affect students? ›

Hunger can lead to lower math scores, attention problems, and behavior, emotional, and academic problems. Furthermore, studies show that children who are consistently or often hungry are more likely to repeat a grade.

Why is eating healthy good for students? ›

Children learn better when they are well nourished. When children eat right, they can improve their memory and their ability to concentrate. In addition, eating well supports healthy growth and development. That's why it's so important that children are given the chance to make nutritious food choices at school.

Do school lunches affect students performance? ›

Results indicate that increases in school lunch participation improve academic performance for both poor and non-poor students; an additional lunch every two weeks increases test scores by roughly 0.08 standard deviations in math and 0.07 standard deviations in ELA.

Does eating affect your grades? ›

Logistic regression analyses (not shown) controlling for sex, race/ethnicity, and grade in school confirmed a significant association between dietary behaviors and academic grades. These results from the YRBS provide evidence of a significant association between academic grades and dietary behaviors.

How does eating affect behavior? ›

Many people use food as a coping mechanism to deal with such feelings as stress, boredom or anxiety, or even to prolong feelings of joy. While this may help in the short term, eating to soothe and ease your feelings often leads to regret and guilt, and can even increase the negative feelings.

How does food affect grades? ›

Good Nutrition helps students show up at school prepared to learn. Because improvements in nutrition make students healthier, students are likely to have fewer absences and attend class more frequently. Studies show that malnutrition leads to behavior problems[6], and that sugar has a negative impact on child behavior.

Why is it important to speak your opinion? ›

Your Opinions and Thoughts Matter

If you do not speak out about your thoughts and opinions then you could end up being lost in the crowd. The valuable input you have to share could be lost in a lack of communication. What you have to say, and what you feel needs to be shared with others.

Is it okay to express opinion? ›

Having an opinion is perfectly fine. However, choosing to express it isn't always necessary. Some people feel the need to express their opinions on everything, ranging from politics to what the kid in the grocery store is wearing, even when they know that what they're saying is insulting.

Should we express our opinions? ›

That's because people should express their opinions and feelings — it's psychologically good to vent out and it's also good for us to know and learn, despite our disagreement with opinions, what other people are thinking. We all should learn to respect other's rights to express opinions and feelings.

How do opinions affect us? ›

We have shown that, when effective, the opinions of others alter a very basic mechanism of the human brain that reflects an immediate change in our values. Social influence at such a basic level may contribute to the rapid learning and spread of values throughout a population.

What is the most important thing for a student? ›

10 Habits of Successful Students
  • Get Organized. Making a plan for what you're going to do and when you're going to do it will make sure you're always ahead of the curve - literally.
  • Don't multitask. ...
  • Divide it up. ...
  • Sleep. ...
  • Set a schedule. ...
  • Take notes. ...
  • Study. ...
  • Manage your study space.

Do children have the right to express their opinion? ›

Respect for children's views

Children have the right to give their opinions freely on issues that affect them. Adults should listen and take children seriously.

Do teachers have freedom of speech in school? ›

In American jurisprudence, public school teachers, as public employees, do not forfeit all of their First Amendment rights to free expression when they accept employment.

Should students be allowed freedom of speech? ›

The Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." This is true for other fundamental rights, as well.

What can get you fired as a teacher? ›

Some causes for dismissal include the following:
  • Immoral conduct.
  • Incompetence.
  • Neglect of duty.
  • Substantial noncompliance with school laws.
  • Conviction of a crime.
  • Insubordination.
  • Fraud or misrepresentation.

What is an unfair teacher? ›

Unfair Teacher Practices means practices or activities done by the teachers which are not Ethically / Mentally / Emotionally and some time legally valid and which leads to humiliation or felt discrimination to the students on the basis of his/her regularism, cast, color, percentage, favoritism, poorness, richness, ...

What are the violations of teachers? ›

The most common ethics violations involved non-school-related criminal activity, sexual misconduct with students, failure to disclose previous crimes or license sanctions, physical aggression toward students, and endangering student health or safety.

What would a bad teacher do? ›

They do not challenge their students, ​are often behind on grading, show videos often, and give “free” days on a regular basis. There is no creativity in their teaching, and they typically make no connections with other faculty or staff members. There is no such thing as a perfect teacher.

What you shouldn't do in school? ›

But some students don't always realize what good behavior and good etiquette should look like in a classroom. That's why we created this list of things of do's and don't in class.
  • Eat. ...
  • Show up late. ...
  • Sleep. ...
  • Interrupt. ...
  • Talk. ...
  • Text or catch up on social media. ...
  • Forget to put your phone on silent.
Feb 14, 2023

Can a teacher be rude? ›

Teachers are human and are unintentionally rude sometimes. They make mistakes, they get mad, and sometimes they can be downright rude. But that's okay! Because in the end, teachers are there to help students learn and grow.

How do you know if your teacher is toxic? ›

Here are eight ways to spot whether or not your kid has a toxic teacher.
  • They're Disillusioned. ...
  • They Gossip. ...
  • They Display an Attitude of Dissent. ...
  • They Only Do the Bare Minimum. ...
  • They Don't Try to Do Better Themselves. ...
  • They Degrade or Publicly Humiliate Some Students. ...
  • They Reject Some Students.
Feb 11, 2022

Can a teacher force you to talk in class? ›

A teacher can't force you to do anything in a classroom. Your actions may result in the instructor removing you from the class or punishing you for your refusal, but the teacher, school and district don't have the authority to make you do something you don't want to do.

What are some signs of teacher favoritism? ›

The Red flags of favouritism.

The impulse to isolate students and overtly show that you favour some students over others. Giving undeserved praise and overlooking the mistakes of students. Ignoring some students and openly giving more attention to a select few.

Should teachers express their views on controversial topics in class? ›

It's important that teachers don't express their opinion as a fact on a controversial issue, but learning about different opinions is an integral part of education,” said junior Harpreet Chohan.

Do teachers have freedom of speech in the classroom? ›

In American jurisprudence, public school teachers, as public employees, do not forfeit all of their First Amendment rights to free expression when they accept employment.

Is it appropriate for teachers to share their emotions with students? ›

Teachers are encouraged to never show emotions; for fear of appearing weak, untrustworthy or the possibility of being disrespected.

Can teachers have opinions? ›

'” Even though teachers are human and have the right to any opinion they desire, lots of students and teachers agree that the sharing of those opinions does not belong in the classroom. On the other hand, some think such opinion sharing is beneficial to the student for many reasons.

Can teachers be disrespectful to students? ›

One of the most prevalent issues highlighted is that of a teacher continuously berating or disrespecting a student or group of students. This type of behavior is unacceptable. All educators expect their students to be respectful to them, but some fail to realize that this is a two-way street.

How do you respectfully disagree with a teacher? ›

Write down what you want to say, which will help keep you organized and on task. State plainly that you respectfully disagree, followed by your examples. Ask the teacher how to proceed since you have differing opinions. Find common ground, where two perspectives can meet, if possible.

What should not be taught in school? ›

20 Life Skills Not Taught in School
  • Conversation.
  • Thinking.
  • How to Handle Money.
  • Dating and Romantic Relationships.
  • Rights.
  • How To Survive Without Certain Technology.
  • Home Repair & Homeowner's Insurance.
  • Car Repair & Car Insurance.

What protects teachers from getting fired? ›

Tenure, simply put, is a safeguard that protects good teachers from unfair firing. Once a teacher is granted tenure — a right that must be earned after three years or more of service, oversight and evaluation — a teacher cannot be fired without a fair hearing. Tenure does not mean a job for life.

Can schools punish you for freedom of speech? ›

Yes. Although students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” school administrators must have the ability to restrict speech that is harmful to other students, in this instance promoting illegal drug use. Frederick displayed his banner at a school event.

Why teachers should share their opinions? ›

Hearing a teacher's opinion on current events can help a student form their own opinions, whether they agree or disagree. Just by talking about current events and how people feel about them, students become more well-informed, invested citizens.

Can teachers hug students? ›

(Note on hugging: Do not attempt to hug students. If a student initiates the hug, attempt to have a side embrace or arm over the shoulder. In the long run, this will prevent any misunderstandings.

Why teachers should not be too friendly to their students? ›

Such educators think that being friendly with them may lead students to not respecting their authority and become disciplined. Their concerns are not unfounded. Every teacher must establish their boundaries and make the students respect them.

What makes a good teacher opinion? ›

Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

Can teachers make mistakes? ›

Just like you teach students — mistakes are opportunities to learn! New teachers will often feel pressure to be perfect, but the reality is that classroom management isn't always easy at first. Mistakes are a learning opportunity, and teaching students how to learn from mistakes is a part of the job.

Should students have homework opinions? ›

What Research Says about Homework. According to Duke professor Harris Cooper, it's important that students have homework. His meta-analysis of homework studies showed a correlation between completing homework and academic success, at least in older grades.


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