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School breakfast programs

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise Education
Decision Makers: Educators Local Government State Government Grantmakers
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

School breakfast programs offer students a nutritious breakfast, often incorporating a variety of healthy and culturally relevant choices. Breakfast can be served in the cafeteria before school starts, from grab and go carts in hallways, or in classrooms as the school day begins. Some schools offer breakfast during a morning break, called second chance breakfast or school brunch (NKH CBP-School breakfast). Schools that participate in the federal School Breakfast Program receive subsidies for each breakfast served. Students from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) are eligible for free breakfast and children from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent FPL qualify for reduced-cost breakfast; schools are reimbursed at higher rates for free and reduced-cost breakfasts (FRAC-SBP). School participation in the federal program varies by state and region (Bartfeld 2010). Some participating schools offer free breakfast to all students, others only to qualifying students (FRAC-Woo 2015).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Improved cognitive function
Increased academic achievement
Increased healthy food consumption
Improved nutrition
Increased food security
Improved weight status
Improved student attendance

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that having access to school breakfast programs improves cognition and scholastic achievement, especially among nutritionally deficient or malnourished children (Frisvold 2015, Hoyland 2009, Meyers 1989, Adolphus 2013). Access to school breakfast programs also increases healthy food consumption and can improve breakfast nutrition (Bhattacharya 2006, Murphy 2011, Ask 2006, ERS-Fox 2004, Frisvold 2015).

School breakfast availability can reduce short-term hunger (Mhurchu 2012), marginal food insecurity, and food-related concerns in low income households (USDA-Bartfeld 2009, Bartfeld 2011, Gundersen 2015). Participation may reduce students’ body mass indexes (BMIs), especially among non-Hispanic white students (Gleason 2009), and may reduce weight gain (Ask 2006, Millimet 2010). School breakfast may not significantly alter nutritional intake over the course of a day, however (NBER-Schazenbach 2014, Crepinsek 2006).

Schools that offer free breakfast for all students, often called universal free breakfast, have been shown to dramatically increase school breakfast participation, especially when breakfast is served in classrooms (Bartfeld 2010, USDA-Bernstein 2004). Universal breakfast also appears to slightly, but significantly, increase servings of fruit and dairy products at breakfast, and reduce cholesterol intake (Crepinsek 2006, ERS-Fox 2004). Universal breakfast and breakfast in classrooms (BIC) appear to increase the portion of kids consuming a nutritionally substantive breakfast (USDA-Bernstein 2004) but may not improve other outcomes more than traditional programs (USDA-Bernstein 2004, Leos-Urbel 2013, Anzman-Frasca 2015, Imberman 2014).

Longer breakfast periods and adequate breakfast time between bus arrival and the start of class can also increase participation in school breakfast programs (Bartfeld 2010). These programs may improve school attendance; however, additional evidence is needed to confirm this effect (Frisvold 2015, Hoyland 2009, Meyers 1989).

Overall, skipping breakfast can diminish cognitive performance (Basch 2011). Breakfast consumption improves short-term memory, attention, and cognition (Hoyland 2009). Breakfast consumption is also associated with a reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese and with a reduced BMI among children and adolescents (Rampersaud 2005).  

Implementation

United States

In the 2013-2014 school year, the federal School Breakfast Program served approximately 11.2 million low income children on a typical day (FRAC-Woo 2015). Low income children participate in the School Breakfast Program much more than higher income children, and schools that serve mostly low income students are more likely to offer breakfast (Bartfeld 2010). Just over half of the low income children who participated in the National School Lunch Program also participated in the School Breakfast Program in 2013-2014 (FRAC-Woo 2015).

States across the country have enacted legislation to increase access to school breakfast, for example Delaware, Colorado, and New Mexico (NCSL Winterfeld-School breakfast 2014). Other states require all schools to serve breakfast, for example Florida, West Virginia, and Maine. Some states require schools to offer breakfast if a set percentage of their students are eligible for free or reduced price school meals, as in Illinois, Texas, and Washington (NCSL-SBP guide). Nebraska’s state Commissioner of Education has challenged all Nebraska schools to increase school breakfast participation by at least 25% in the 2015-2016 school year, using alternative programs such as grab and go breakfast, breakfast in the classroom, or second chance breakfast (HFH-School breakfast).

In the 2013-2014 school year, reimbursement rates were $1.58 for each free breakfast served, $1.28 for each reduced-cost breakfast, and 28 cents for each full price breakfast. Severe needs schools qualified for an additional 31 cents per free or reduced-cost breakfast served (FRAC-Woo 2015).

Wisconsin

The Department of Public Instruction and the University of Wisconsin offer resources and tools to support Wisconsin school breakfast programs (WI DPI-School breakfast, UW Ext-WI SBP). The Wisconsin Food Security Project provides local data about food security infrastructure in Wisconsin, including school breakfast program participation numbers and rates (UW Ext-WFSP). 

Implementation Resources

CDC-Health and academics - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health and academic achievement. 2014. Accessed on February 29, 2016
FRAC-SBP - Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). School breakfast program. Accessed on February 5, 2016
NKH CBP-School breakfast - No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices (NKH CBP). School breakfast. Accessed on February 29, 2016
USDA-SBP - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). School Breakfast Program (SBP). Accessed on March 16, 2017
USDA-SN training - US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Professional standards for school nutrition professionals: Training and resources. Accessed on March 16, 2017

Citations - Description

Bartfeld 2010* - Bartfeld J, Kim M. Participation in the School Breakfast Program: New evidence from the ECLS-K. Social Service Review. 2010;84(4):541–62. Accessed on December 1, 2015
FRAC-SBP - Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). School breakfast program. Accessed on February 5, 2016
FRAC-Woo 2015 - Woo N, Hewins J, Burke M, et al. School breakfast scorecard: School year 2013-2014. Washington DC: Food Research and Action Center (FRAC); 2015. Accessed on February 29, 2016
NKH CBP-School breakfast - No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices (NKH CBP). School breakfast. Accessed on February 29, 2016

Citations - Evidence

Adolphus 2013 - Adolphus K, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2013;7:425. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Anzman-Frasca 2015* - Anzman-Frasca S, Djang HC, Halmo MM, Dolan PR, Economos CD. Estimating impacts of a breakfast in the classroom program on school outcomes. JAMA Pediatrics. 2015;169(1):71-77. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Ask 2006 - Ask AS, Hernes S, Aarek I, Johannessen G, Haugen M. Changes in dietary pattern in 15 year old adolescents following a 4 month dietary intervention with school breakfast: A pilot study. Nutrition Journal. 2006;5:33. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Bartfeld 2010* - Bartfeld J, Kim M. Participation in the School Breakfast Program: New evidence from the ECLS-K. Social Service Review. 2010;84(4):541–62. Accessed on December 1, 2015
Bartfeld 2011 - Bartfeld JS, Ahn H-M. The School Breakfast Program strengthens household food security among low-income households with elementary school children1,2. Journal of Nutrition. 2011;141(3):470–5. Accessed on November 30, 2015
Basch 2011* - Basch CE. Breakfast and the achievement gap among urban minority group. Journal of School Health. 2011;81(10):635-40. Accessed on November 30, 2015
Bhattacharya 2006* - Bhattacharya J, Currie J, Haider SJ. Breakfast of champions? The School Breakfast Program and the nutrition of children and families. Journal of Human Resources. 2006;41(3):445–66. Accessed on November 27, 2015
Crepinsek 2006* - Crepinsek MK, Singh A, Bernstein LS, McLaughlin JE. Dietary effects of universal-free school breakfast: Findings from the evaluation of the school breakfast program pilot project. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2006;106(11):1796-1803. Accessed on February 29, 2016
ERS-Fox 2004 - Fox M, Hamilton W, Lin B. Effects of food assistance and nutrition programs on nutrition and health: Volume 4, Executive summary of the literature review. Economic Research Service (ERS), Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Reports. 2004;19(4):1-10. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Frisvold 2015* - Frisvold DE. Nutrition and cognitive achievement: An evaluation of the School Breakfast Program. Journal of Public Economics. 2015:124:91-104. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Gleason 2009* - Gleason PM, Hedley-Dodd A. School breakfast program but not school lunch program participation is associated with lower body mass index. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109(2 Suppl):S118–28. Accessed on February 5, 2016
Gundersen 2015 - Gundersen, C. Food assistance programs and child health. The Future of Children: Policies to Promote Child Health. The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, The Brookings Institution. 2015:25(1):91-109. Accessed on April 27, 2017
Hoyland 2009 - Hoyland A, Dye L, Lawton CL. A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2009;22(2):220–43. Accessed on February 24, 2016
Imberman 2014* - Imberman SA, Kugler AD. The effect of providing breakfast in class on student performance. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 2014;33(3):669-699. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Leos-Urbel 2013* - Leos-Urbel J, Schwartz AE, Weinstein M, et al. Not just for poor kids: The impact of universal free school breakfast on meal participation and student outcomes. Economics of Education Review. 2013;36:88-107. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Meyers 1989* - Meyers AF, Sampson AE, Weitzman M, et al. School Breakfast Program and school performance. The American Journal of Diseases of Children. 1989;143:1234-1239. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Mhurchu 2012 - Mhurchu NC, Gorton D, Turley M, et al. Effects of a free school breakfast programme on children's attendance, academic achievement and short-term hunger: Results from a stepped-wedge, cluster randomised controlled trial. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2012:6-13. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Millimet 2010* - Millimet DL, Tchernis R, Husain M. School nutrition programs and the incidence of childhood obesity. The Journal of Human Resources. 2010;45(3):640-654. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Murphy 2011 - Murphy S, Moore GF, Tapper K, et al. Free healthy breakfasts in primary schools: A cluster randomised controlled trial of a policy intervention in Wales, UK. Public Health Nutrition. 2011;14(2):219-226. Accessed on February 29, 2016
NBER-Schazenbach 2014 - Schanzenbach DW, Zaki M. Expanding the school breakfast program: Impacts on children's consumption, nutrition and health. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 2014: Working Paper 20308. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Rampersaud 2005* - Rampersaud GC, Pereira MA, Girard BL, Adams J, Metzl JD. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105(5):743-760. Accessed on February 29, 2016
USDA-Bartfeld 2009 - Bartfeld J, Kim M, Ryu JH, Ahn H-M. The School Breakfast Program: Participation and impacts. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service (ERS); 2009. Accessed on February 6, 2017
USDA-Bernstein 2004 - Bernstein LS, McLaughlin JE, Crepinsek MK, et al. Evaluation of the School Breakfast Program pilot project: Final report. Alexandria: Office of Analysis, Nutrition, and Evaluation, Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture (USDA); 2004. Accessed on February 6, 2017

Citations - Implementation

Bartfeld 2010* - Bartfeld J, Kim M. Participation in the School Breakfast Program: New evidence from the ECLS-K. Social Service Review. 2010;84(4):541–62. Accessed on December 1, 2015
FRAC-Woo 2015 - Woo N, Hewins J, Burke M, et al. School breakfast scorecard: School year 2013-2014. Washington DC: Food Research and Action Center (FRAC); 2015. Accessed on February 29, 2016
HFH-School breakfast - Hunger Free Heartland (HFH). Nebraska alternative school breakfast challenge: Increasing school breakfast participation by meeting students where and when they want to eat breakfast. Accessed on March 1, 2016
NCSL Winterfeld-School breakfast 2014 - Winterfeld A. State legislators: Champions of breakfast at school. Healthy Communities Legislative Action Bulletin 6: School Breakfast. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). 2014;1(6). Accessed on February 29, 2016
NCSL-SBP guide - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). A guide to the School Breakfast Program. Accessed on February 29, 2016
UW Ext-WFSP - University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (UW Ext). Wisconsin food security project (WFSP): Your source for visualizing and downloading data on food access and the food security infrastructure in Wisconsin. Accessed on February 29, 2016
UW Ext-WI SBP - University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (UW Ext), Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WI DPI). Wisconsin school breakfast program. Accessed on November 9, 2015
WI DPI-School breakfast - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Resources for the School Breakfast Program. Accessed on March 18, 2016

Page Last Updated

March 1, 2016

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