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Good Breakfast May Hike Low-Income Kids' Grades

Good Breakfast May Hike Low-Income Kids’ Grades

From an energy and dietary perspective breakfast has often been touted as the most important meal of the day.

New research suggests the benefits of a good breakfast extend to the cognitive arena as investigators find a strong connection between good nutrition and good grades.

In the study, University of Iowa investigators discovered free school breakfasts help students from low-income families perform better academically.

Researchers found students who attend schools that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) have higher achievement scores in math, science, and reading than students in schools that don’t participate.

“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 researcher Dr. David Frisvold, an assistant professor of economics.

The federal government started the SBP for children from low-income families in 1966. The program is administered in coordination with state governments, many of which require local school districts to offer subsidized breakfasts if a certain percentage of their overall enrollment comes from families that meet income eligibility guidelines.

Frisvold conducted his study by examining academic performance from students in schools that are just below the threshold and thus not required to offer free breakfasts, and those that are just over it and do offer them.

He found the schools that offered free breakfasts showed significantly better academic performance than schools that did not, and that the impact was cumulative so that the longer the school participated in the SBP, the higher their achievement.

Math scores were about 25 percent higher at participating schools during a students’ elementary school tenure than would be expected otherwise. Reading and science scores showed similar gains, Frisvold said.

Frisvold said the study suggests subsidized breakfast programs are an effective tool to help elementary school students from low-income families achieve more in school and be better prepared for later life.

Source: University of Iowa

Good Breakfast May Hike Low-Income Kids’ Grades

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Good Breakfast May Hike Low-Income Kids’ Grades. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 18 Mar 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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