Summer 2015

Breakfast in the Classroom

Serving the morning meal at school boosts attendance a bit

Some research has shown that children who eat breakfast make better students—they have better test scores and are more able to focus in school, for example. That has been the impetus behind the National School Breakfast Program. A new Tufts study looked at whether one version of that program, Breakfast in the Classroom, was making a difference in academic performance.

Traditionally, National School Breakfast Program meals are served in the cafeteria before school, and the cost is based on family income. The Breakfast in the Classroom version, on the other hand, provides free meals to all students right in the classroom after the school day begins.

For the study published in JAMA Pediatrics, Stephanie Anzman-Frasca, Ph.D., a research associate with ChildObesity180 at the Friedman School, looked at 446 public elementary schools in a large, urban school district, where about 58 percent of schools had newly implemented Breakfast in the Classroom programs. The other schools in the district continued to offer breakfast before school in the cafeteria.

The results suggest that serving breakfast in class did improve participation in the National School Breakfast Program, with about three-quarters of students participating, versus 43 percent in the other schools. Schools that offered Breakfast in the Classroom also had slightly better attendance. But the students at those schools did no better on standardized math and reading tests than their peers at the other schools.

The authors note that academic performance might be better assessed after the programs have been up and running for more than a few months.

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