Dietary Effects of Universal-Free School Breakfast: Findings from the Evaluation of the School Breakfast Program Pilot Project

  • M.K. C
  • A. S
  • L.S. B
  • et al.
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Objective: To determine the effects of offering universal-free school breakfast in elementary schools on students' dietary outcomes. Design: Experimental study with random assignment of 153 matched elementary schools in six school districts. Treatment schools offered universal-free school breakfast, and control schools continued to operate the traditional means-tested School Breakfast Program. Twenty-four-hour dietary recalls were collected from sample students near the end of the first year. Subjects: About 30 students in second through sixth grades were randomly selected from each school (n=4,358). Intervention: Free school breakfasts were made available to all students in treatment schools, regardless of family income, for three consecutive school years (2000-2001 to 2002-2003). Main outcome measures: Breakfast consumption and food and nutrient intake. Statistical analyses: Hierarchical mixed-models and logistic regression, adjusting for age, sex, minority status, and income eligibility for the regular school meal programs, were used to estimate effects. Results: Despite a significant increase in school breakfast participation among sample students in treatment schools (from 16% to 40%, P<0.01), the rate of breakfast skipping did not differ between groups (4% overall). Treatment school students were more likely to consume a nutritionally substantive breakfast (P<0.01), but dietary intakes over 24 hours were essentially the same. Conclusions: Making universal-free school breakfast available in elementary schools did not change students' dietary outcomes after nearly 1 year. To improve children's diets overall, efforts should focus on ensuring all students have access to a healthful breakfast, at home or at school. 2006 American Dietetic Association.




M.K., C., A., S., L.S., B., & J.E., M. (2006). Dietary Effects of Universal-Free School Breakfast: Findings from the Evaluation of the School Breakfast Program Pilot Project. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. United States: W.B. Saunders. Retrieved from

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