What Do Parents Think of School Breakfasts?

2018-08-15

While we can all agree on the importance of school breakfast programs and how they benefit all children, participation in these programs is far lower than its lunchtime counterpart, the National School Lunch Program. For every 100 students enrolled in free and/or reduced-priced lunch, only 53% participate in the SBP.

There are several major factors that contribute to low participation rates and include logistical issues in transportation and a stigma associated with eating breakfast at school. Programs like grab-and-go carts, second-chance breakfast (also known as breakfast after the bell programs [BABPs]) or breakfast in the classroom (BIC) help combat these issues.

BABPs help increase a student’s accessibility to breakfast, reduce the stigma associated with school breakfasts, and can improve student behavior. But researchers realized that not all parents fully understand the benefits of BABPs. To better understand why some parents chose to have their student participate in breakfast programs and others do not, the researchers created a poll. (The full study and results can be viewed in the Spring 2018 edition of the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management.)

The study polled parents in Utah, the state with the lowest participation in school breakfast programs. Less than 35% of the students enrolled in Free Reduced Lunch (FRL) take advantage of breakfast. Out of 800 Utah schools, 100 of these were selected with parents invited to participate in the online survey. Parents answered questions about specific breakfast habits, breakfast consumption, and questions specific to school breakfasts.They were also asked why or why not their child participated in BABPs, and the overall perceived healthiness of at-home breakfasts versus school breakfasts.

The results were interesting: Most parents believed that school breakfast was just as healthy as a breakfast served at home. Many respondents believe that there are benefits to BABPs, the most common being convenience.

“The results from the study identified that parents who encourage their child to eat breakfast after the bell are more likely to perceive school breakfast as healthful and see benefits in the SBP compared with those who would not encourage their child to eat breakfast after the bell,” the study states. “These findings indicate a relationship between parent support for BABPs and their perceptions of the healthfulness and benefits of school breakfast.”

To view the full study, “Parent Support for Breakfast After the Bell Programs in a State with Very Low Breakfast Participation,” and learn more about parents’ perceptions of breakfast programs check out the full issue of the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management!

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