- Giving students an extra 10 minutes to eat breakfast in the cafeteria after school starts can increase participation in the federal School Breakfast Program, according to a new study appearing in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
- The study suggests that more students would have the time to eat breakfast in schools where it doesn't make financial sense to move to a universal, breakfast-in-the-classroom model. Schools need to have a sufficient number of students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals to cover the costs of those that would otherwise be paying part or all of the cost.
- Conducted in three elementary schools in Nevada's Reno/Sparks area, the study shows that the additional 10 minutes increased student participation in the program by 20%. “Realistically speaking, adding time after the bell may well be the only way breakfast participation can be increased for most schools, as it is unlikely that students with zero time to eat can be encouraged to arrive earlier, especially under given school bus schedules,” the authors write.
Research shows that serving breakfast in the classroom boosts student participation. In New York City, for example, schools that began serving breakfast in class in 2007 have seen the participation rate increase from 25% to 80%. The authors of the Nevada study suggest that future research should possibly examine why students are more likely to prefer classroom breakfast programs over cafeteria service, even if they are guaranteed the extra time to eat. Familiar classroom surroundings and fewer disruptions could be contributing factors, they write. These are issues school leaders could explore.
“A better understanding of this ‘pure classroom effect’ may help to design cafeteria implementation that adopts some of these factors, possibly allowing for further improvements in participation under standard location and pricing,” they write.
Another benefit of the additional 10 minutes, the authors write: students who have not eaten before they get to school, and who don't have time to have anything before the bell, still get some protected time for breakfast.