Estimating Impacts of a Breakfast in the Classroom Program on School Outcomes | Journal Scan

Study Questions:

Does providing breakfast during school influence school attendance and academic achievement?


This quasi-experimental study included 446 public elementary schools from a large urban US school district. This district served predominately low-income, racial/ethnic minority students. A total of 257 schools (57.6%) implemented a breakfast in the classroom program during the 2012-2013 academic year, whereas 189 (42.4%) did not. School- and grade-level data from 2012-2013 and grade-level achievement data from the prior year were collected from school district records across the elementary schools. Primary outcomes of interest were change in rates of school breakfast participation, school attendance at the grade level (kindergarten through sixth grade), and academic achievement at the grade level (second through sixth grades). Propensity-scored weights were used to adjust for demographic differences between the schools, which received the intervention and the control group schools.


The breakfast in the classroom program was linked with increased breakfast participation during the academic year (p < 0.001), with mean participation rates of 73.7% in the breakfast in the classroom group versus 42.9% in the control group. The breakfast in the classroom program was also linked with greater overall school attendance rates (95.5% vs. 95.3% in the control group; p = 0.004). When performing attendance analyses in the subset of grade levels for which achievement data were available, results were mostly consistent, although there was a group × time interaction (p = 0.04) such that differences between least squares means in the breakfast in the classroom versus control groups did not reach statistical significance at every month. There were no group differences in standardized test performance in math (57.9% in the breakfast in the classroom group vs. 57.4% in the control group; p = 0.52) or reading (44.9% in the breakfast in the classroom group vs. 44.7% in the control group; p = 0.70).


The investigators concluded that these findings add to the evidence that breakfast in the classroom can increase school breakfast participation substantially, and suggest that it has the potential to improve overall school attendance rates.


A modest increase in school attendance was observed when breakfast in the classroom was provided. As the authors suggest, further research is needed to examine whether longer durations of such programs would be associated with long-term improvements in attendance and improvements in academic performances. Improvement in health parameters and academics may be observed if such programs are combined with other interventions.

Keywords: Breakfast, Demography, Educational Status, Mathematics, Poverty, Reading, Schools, Students

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