With conversations stilled by the electronic tones, there's not much choice but to eat. So the children make serious headway on their milk, burgers and veggies.
Three minutes later the music stops, the conversations resume - and lunch is largely consumed.
"See how empty our trays are when we go to the garbage?" asked Amy Bartlett, principal of Sharon Elementary School. "Much emptier than they used to be."
Searching for serenity in the lunchroom, teachers in north Georgia's Forsyth County might have found a way to keep their students quiet and focused on their meals.
When the music is not playing, students are allowed to talk, tease and do whatever else kids normally do during lunch.
But when the classical or New Age music begins, the students must stop talking and start eating.
About a dozen of the county's 16 elementary schools play music during lunchtime.
Using musical cues for talking and silence isn't unique to Forsyth County.
For instance, officials in the nearby Cobb County school district say some of their schools use a similar practice.
Forsyth County school administrators said they don't have hard numbers to prove the project's success, but a look at the lunch trays tells the story.
Without the music, Ms. Bartlett said, much of the lunch ended up in the trash.
"Now they do really focus on consuming their food during music time," she said.
Teachers said it helps students and teachers alike.
"I think it's a great idea. It really helps with keeping them quiet. It just helps us keep an eye on them," said Kristi Dawdy, a third-grade teacher. "These moments of silence are golden for teachers."
Students, too, don't seem to mind. Some said it didn't take them long to learn to follow the top rule posted on the lunchroom's white walls: "Quiet during music."
"When the music comes on, we sit quiet and eat our food," said Mary Kathryn Gentry, 8.
"Normally when music is not on, everyone is talking, and you don't have time to eat," said Elizabeth Lansden, a fellow 8-year-old. "You get a chance to eat your french fries and nachos now."
Of course, some additional incentives don't hurt.
This year, the school is planning to throw an ice cream party for the class that proves itself to be the quietest when the music plays.
The playlist can be eclectic. The CD that played one day last week was a mix of pop and new age tunes.
Crockett's Theme, the song made famous in a Miami Vice episode, blared a few minutes into the lunch period.
Later, Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road streamed through the room.
Each track is instrumental, and most last between two and four minutes. In between the songs, students have six and a half minutes to socialize.
Eventually, Ms. Bartlett hopes to synchronize the songs with the music teacher's lesson plans. That day can't come soon enough for 5-year-old Avery Sheintal, who has her own ideas about what she wants to hear.
"I wish they'd play High School Musical, " she said.
When asked the same question, Lilly Jones offered her own confusing answer.
"I like fish," said the 5-year-old. "I don't like green beans, or tomatoes. I like one tomato."
But before she could elaborate, the rest of her table began holding fingers to their mouths.
The Last Emperor had begun to play. And this interview was over.