Students More Likely to Eat School Breakfast When Given Extra Time, New Study Finds

Source: Virginia Tech

Summary: According to a new study by researchers, primary school students are more likely to eat a nutritional breakfast when given 10 extra minutes to do so.

The study, which is the first of its kind to analyze school breakfast programs, evaluated how students change their breakfast consumption when given extra time to eat in a school cafeteria. The study also compared the results of these cafeteria breakfasts to results of serving in classroom breakfasts to the same group of students. Using food weighting stations, the researchers collected information on the number of students who ate a school breakfast, how much they ate, and their exact nutritional intake. The findings revealed that the number of school breakfasts consumed increased by 20% when students were given 10 extra minutes to eat in the cafeteria, and an additional 35-45% when breakfasts were served inside classrooms, bringing the overall rate of breakfast consumption close to 100%. The study findings were published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Breakfast programs in schools

School breakfast programs help keep kids healthy, but not all students benefit from the program because of constraints like time. Credit: USDA.

Third- and fourth-grade students from the three Reno-area schools that participated in the study were given wristbands as they arrived on campus that tracked their arrival time as well as individual consumption and nutrition data. In addition, students completed a daily questionnaire to gain further insight into whether they ate breakfast at home, how hungry they were upon arrival at school, which transportation method they used to get to school, and whether they liked any of the food offered. Analysis of the data showed that the transportation method used to get to school did not impact whether or not students ate breakfast, and that students did not overeat because of the extra time provided. The researchers are now analyzing the breakfast waste data collected during the study with hopes of publishing further research on the topic.

Prof. Klaus Moeltner said, “Our results show that there’s no change in average consumption, which is reassuring” and further added, “Kids aren’t overeating because of the extra time. Instead, they’re substituting – if they used to eat breakfast at home, now they eat it at school.”

More Information: Klaus Moeltner et al, “Breakfast at School: a first Look at the Role of time and location for participation and nutritional intake, American Journal of Agricultural Economics (2018). DOI: 10.1093/ajae/aay048

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