Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT AND PREVENTION OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY Title: Exploring strategies to promote middle school student participation in the school breakfast program

Authors
item Cullen, Karen -
item Thompson, Deborah
item Watson, Kathleen -

Submitted to: Journal of Child Nutrition and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 16, 2012
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Citation: Cullen, K.W., Thompson, D.J., Watson, K.B. 2012. Exploring strategies to promote middle school student participation in the school breakfast program. Journal of Child Nutrition and Management. 36(1). Available: http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Content.aspx?id=17258

Interpretive Summary: Providing a school breakfast to students may help improve student energy balance, nutrient intake, and school academic achievement. The purpose of this pilot study was to identify the factors influencing middle school student school breakfast participation and possible strategies to promote school breakfast, and to evaluate a pilot intervention to improve school breakfast participation. Interviews with 47 sixth- to eighth-grade students and 41 parents, four focus groups with teachers and one with child nutrition managers were conducted. The information was used to develop a free school breakfast intervention that included school staff support and promotion to students and parents. During the intervention semester, there was a 242% increase in the total school breakfast participation rate in the intervention schools, compared to the previous three semesters. The control school increase was about 20%. Future research should employ larger samples of middle schools, carefully document costs, and assess important school-related outcomes such as discipline and nurse referrals, attendance, tardiness, and school achievement.

Technical Abstract: Providing a school breakfast to students may be a practical intervention that improves energy balance, nutrient intake, and school academic achievement variables. The purpose of this pilot study was to identify the ecological factors influencing middle school student school breakfast participation and possible strategies to promote school breakfast, and to evaluate a pilot intervention to improve school breakfast participation. The methods used were formative research, with middle school students, their parents, teachers, and child nutrition managers to identify barriers to school breakfast participation and possible promotional strategies. Based on the results, a free school breakfast intervention was developed and pilot tested in low-income schools. School breakfast participation was compared for the intervention semester (Spring 2008) and 3 previous semesters for 3 intervention schools and 2 control schools. Interviews with 47 sixth- to eighth-grade students and 41 parents were conducted, in addition to four focus groups with teachers and one with child nutrition managers. The information was used to develop the free school breakfast intervention that included school staff support and promotion to students and parents. During the intervention semester, there was a 242% increase in total school breakfast participation rate in the intervention schools, compared to the average of the previous three semesters (17.1% to 58.8%). The control school increase was about 20% (from 29.9% to 34.5%). Further applications show that a free school breakfast program, with encouragement from school staff, dramatically increased school breakfast participation by students in low-income middle schools by 242%. Future research should employ larger samples of middle schools, carefully document costs, and assess important school-related outcomes such as discipline and nurse referrals, attendance, tardiness, and school achievement.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page