Students more likely to eat school breakfast when given extra time, new study finds

August 18, 2018 by Jillian Broadwell, Virginia Tech
School breakfast programs help keep kids healthy, but not all students benefit from the program because of constraints like time. Credit: USDA.

Primary school students are more likely to eat a nutritional breakfast when given 10 extra minutes to do so, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern University.

The study, which is the first of its kind to analyze programs, evaluated how students change their breakfast consumption when given extra time to eat in a school cafeteria. The study also compared results of these cafeteria breakfasts to results of serving in-classroom breakfasts to the same group of students.

"It's by far the most sophisticated, accurate measurement of school breakfast intake ever done," said Klaus Moeltner, a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "We know exactly how much the students consumed and how much time they had to consume it."

Using food weighting stations developed by co-author Karen Spears of Georgia Southern University, 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, recently published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, revealed that the number of school breakfasts consumed increased by 20 percent when students were given 10 extra minutes to eat in the cafeteria, and an additional 35-45 percent when breakfasts were served inside classrooms, bringing the overall rate of breakfast consumption close to 100 percent.

"The percent of students that go without breakfast because they didn't eat at home and they didn't have time to eat at school goes from 4 to 0 percent when given 10 minutes more to eat, so the most vulnerable segment is taken care of," said Moeltner.

And while the results suggest that more students eat breakfast when it is served inside classrooms, the researchers acknowledge the extra costs associated with in-classroom breakfasts.

"When you move breakfast into the classroom, you have to serve all the students for free, and the associated costs needed to feed all the students must be covered by low income subsidies," said Moeltner. "But many schools don't have a large enough proportion of subsidized students and therefore cannot afford to serve in-classroom breakfasts because they lack the subsidies to offset the costs."

Thus, the findings have significant implications for schools that cannot afford classroom breakfasts, but could allow more time for cafeteria breakfasts.

The study also provided additional insights into breakfast consumption habits.

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.

"Our results show that there's no change in average consumption, which is reassuring," said Moeltner. "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."

The researchers are now analyzing the breakfast waste data collected during the study with hopes of publishing further research on the topic.

With the rich data provided by the study, researchers can examine many school breakfast questions. For now, the results on breakfast consumption when given extra time are clear, and researchers advise educational institutions and policymakers to consider implementing additional for school breakfasts.

Explore further: School breakfasts contribute to healthy weight, study finds

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

Related Stories

School breakfasts contribute to healthy weight, study finds

March 17, 2016
Middle school students who eat breakfast at school—even if they have already had breakfast at home—are less likely to be overweight or obese than students who skip breakfast, says a new study by the Community Alliance ...

Classroom program increases school breakfast participation, not obesity

March 30, 2016
Serving free breakfast in New York City's classrooms has boosted the number of students eating what some consider the most important meal of the day at school, according to research by New York University's Institute for ...

Better breakfast, better grades

March 17, 2015
A new study from the University of Iowa reinforces the connection between good nutrition and good grades, finding that free school breakfasts help students from low-income families perform better academically.

Large numbers of students skipping breakfast

March 14, 2018
Despite widespread availability of morning meal programs, a large number of Canadian students are still skipping breakfast, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Family income and mother's education affect whether students skip breakfast

July 27, 2015
Teenagers are more likely to eat breakfast if their mothers are highly educated or they come from families with lower incomes, research from the Middle East reveals.

Late nights = no breakfast and more junk food for Aussie kids

August 6, 2018
From toddlers to teens, every parent knows that children can sometimes be fickle eaters. Yet, few would know that a child's bedtime and how well they sleep at night can also affect how well they eat.

Recommended for you

Your heart hates air pollution. Portable filters could help

November 13, 2018
Microscopic particles floating in the air we breathe come from sources such as fossil fuel combustion, fires, cigarettes and vehicles. Known as fine particulate matter, this form of air pollution increases the risk of cardiovascular ...

Simple tips can lead to better food choices

November 13, 2018
A few easily learned tips on eating and food choice can increase amount of healthy food choices between 5 percent and 11 percent, a new Yale University study has found.

No accounting for these tastes: Artificial flavors a mystery

November 13, 2018
Six artificial flavors are being ordered out of the food supply in a dispute over their safety, but good luck to anyone who wants to know which cookies, candies or drinks they're in.

Insufficient sleep in children is associated with poor diet, obesity and more screen time

November 13, 2018
A new study conducted among more than 177,000 students suggests that insufficient sleep duration is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle profile among children and adolescents.

New exercise guidelines: Move more, sit less, start younger

November 12, 2018
Move more, sit less and get kids active as young as age 3, say new federal guidelines that stress that any amount and any type of exercise helps health.

Some activity fine for kids recovering from concussions, docs say

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Children and teens who suffer a sports-related concussion should reduce, but not eliminate, physical and mental activity in the days after their injury, an American Academy of Pediatrics report says.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Anonym518498
1 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2018
More time in the lunchroom is good, less time to receive totalitarian indoctrination

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.