Breakfast in Classroom Program Linked to Better Breakfast Participation, Attendance

According to a new study by Tufts researchers.

Schools that offer the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program—where kids, no matter their income level, eat breakfast in school right after the opening bell—had higher participation in the national school breakfast program and better attendance, according to a new study by Tufts University researchers.

The study was published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Typically, BIC is a free meal served in the classroom at the beginning of the school day. Tufts researchers note that there’s been evidence suggesting that “breakfast may improve cognitive function and other outcomes for children and has been used to argue for the expansion of such programs to try to narrow the achievement gap between underserved children and their more affluent peers.”

In order to determine the impact that BIC participation had on school attendance and academic achievement, Stephanie Anzman-Frasca, PhD, a researcher with ChildObesity180 at Tufts, looked at data from 446 public elementary schools in a large, urban school district in the U.S. She and the other co-authors of the study found that a total of 257 schools (57.6 percent) implemented a BIC program during the 2012-2013 academic year, but 189 schools (42.4 percent) did not.

According to the study:

BIC was linked to increased participation in the SBP during the academic year with average participation rates of 73.7 percent in the BIC schools vs. 42.9 percent in schools without BIC. Grade-level attendance rates also were higher for the BIC schools compared with non-BIC schools across the school year (95.5 percent vs. 95.3 percent). Although the group differences in attendance were not large in the study, they reflected 76 additional attended days per grade per month.

Although participation and attendance was up for students who participated in the program, math and reading achievement were not affected in schools with or without BIC.

However, there were no differences in grade-level standardized test performance in math (57.9 percent in the BIC group vs. 57.4 percent in the non-BIC group) or reading (44.9 percent in the BIC group vs. 44.7 percent in the non-BIC group).

The study also says that additional research is needed “to examine impacts on academic achievement across different demographics and for longer periods and on outcomes in other domains, such as energy balance. Continuing the expansion of this evidence base can inform policy decisions and promote the health and well-being of the whole child.”