Offering free school breakfasts to all elementary school students regardless of income increases the likelihood that the children will consume a nutritionally sound breakfast, according to researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Abt Associates, Inc.
The researchers spent three years tracking the dietary intakes of more than 4,300 students in second through sixth grades at 153 elementary schools. The study looked at the effects of offering ?universal-free? school breakfast, or free breakfast to any student regardless of family income, in elementary schools on students? breakfast consumption and their total food and nutrient intake throughout the day compared with students at schools who participate in the federal government?s School Breakfast Program that offers free or reduced-priced breakfast for children from families below the poverty level.
On average, the students receiving universal-free school breakfasts consumed less cholesterol than students in the School Breakfast Program. However, the study found no significant differences in the children?s total daily dietary intakes, the overall quality of their diets or rates of ?breakfast skipping? among children in either group.
?Students who cannot eat breakfast at home should have the opportunity to eat it at school,? The researchers write. ?This study and others have shown that improvements in children?s nutrient intake are needed, particularly with regard to food energy, fat, sodium and fiber, as well as calcium for older children.?