What Was Effect of Offering Breakfast in the Classroom on Obesity?

Bottom Line: Offering breakfast in the classroom at some Philadelphia public schools did not affect the proportion of students developing overweight and obesity, when examined as a combined measure, after 2 ½ years. However, offering breakfast in the classroom did increase the proportion of students with obesity, although precise reasons for the increase are unknown. This study reports on a randomized clinical trial among more than 1,300 students starting in the fourth through sixth grades at 16 public schools in Philadelphia. Half of the schools offered students a breakfast in the classroom initiative that included providing breakfast during the first period of the day with complimentary breakfast-specific nutrition education. The other half of schools continued offering students breakfast in the cafeteria before school, plus standard nutrition education. Researchers acknowledge the effect of the initiative could be unique to older elementary and middle school students, who may have more freedom to buy food outside school in the morning. More research is needed to understand whether offering breakfast in the classroom would have a similar effect on obesity among other populations of students, and whether alternative models of offering the School Breakfast Program could increase program participation without an unintended consequence of increasing children’s weight status.

Authors: Katherine W. Bauer, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, and coauthors

(doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5531)