Free school breakfast programs help students from low-income families perform better academically

Free school breakfast programs help students from low-income families perform better academically

Better breakfast, better grades—a new study conducted by a researcher from the University of Iowa has reinforced this apparent adage.

The study centred on examining the difference in the academic performance between students who attend schools that participate in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) of the United States Department of Agriculture and students who attend schools that did no participate.

Take note that the U.S. federal government started the SBP for elementary students coming from low-income families in 1996. The program essentially involves offering subsidized or free breakfasts. State governments have coordinated with the federal government to administer various free school breakfast programs across the country.

Findings revealed these students have higher achievement scores in mathematics, science, and reading than their counterparts from non-participating schools.

Apart from the fact that the academic performance between the two groups of subjects was significantly different, the study also found out that the impact of offering free breakfast is cumulative. In other words, the longer the school participated in the SBP, the higher the achievement scores of its students.

“These results suggest that the persistent exposure to the relatively more nutritious breakfast offered through the subsidized breakfast program throughout elementary school can yield important gains in achievement,” said David Frisvold, researcher and assistant professor of economics in the Tippie College of Business.

The researcher added that his study provide a justification the free school breakfast programs are an effective tool to help elementary students from low-income families achieve more in school and be better prepared for later life.

Further details of the study are found in the article “Nutrition and cognitive achievement of the school breakfast program” published in 2015 in the journal Public Economics.