A growing form of bullying faced by kids in school takes advantage of their desire to fit in by encouraging students not to eat lunch, or risk rejection.
The practice, which has become increasingly common, most often targets young girls, who face pressure not to eat lunch, or else eat less than they would without direction.
“One of the things that is being reported is the significant amount of peer pressure exerted by certain girls to ‘not eat lunch,’” dietician Dana Thompson told U.S. News and World Report. “Girls are avoiding eating or throwing out their lunch for fear of rejection by cliques.”
What’s more, the practice is prevalent across students of all ages, from elementary to high school, according to another dietician, Brina Jergenson. “The culture at lunch seems to have changed to it being more acceptable for kids to not eat lunch than to eat lunch.” This is particularly an issue for older students, as lunchroom supervision typically decreases as students move from grade to grade.
Current research also supports these findings — as one study in the Appetite journal noted, bullying experiences are correlated with meal-skipping.
To combat these harmful behaviors, Thompson recommends that parents get in the habit of asking what their children ate for lunch each day — even if the student won’t admit anything directly, they will at least have the chance to bring it up. Secondly, Thompson recommends more cautious lunchroom monitoring. “If kids tell you they are not hungry at lunch they are lying,” Thompson warns.