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Study links breakfast in the classroom with higher obesity rate

The study found that around 12% of the students who ate breakfast in the classroom had a BMI in the obesity range, compared to 4% of students who ate breakfast in the cafeteria.
Breakfast Classroom
Photograph: Shutterstock

A study of students in Philadelphia Public Schools found that those who ate breakfast in the classroom had a higher rate of obesity after a two-and-a-half-year period than students who did not, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The study, held by researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education, followed more than 1,300 students in grades four through six who were from low-income communities. Students were split into two groups: those who were offered breakfast in the cafeteria before classes began with a standard nutrition education program, and those who were given breakfast during the first period with a breakfast-specific nutrition education.

Students who ate breakfast in the classroom received 18 nutrition education lessons centered on the importance of eating a good breakfast. Healthy breakfast options at local corner stores near the schools were also marked to help students identify them when outside of class.

Parents were given monthly newsletters filled with recipes, healthy food options and family activities. Displays were also set up at back-to-school events and parent-teacher conferences.

All of the breakfasts served in the classroom and cafeteria met USDA requirements, and the amount of calories on average did not differ between the meals.

Researchers believed that serving breakfast in the classroom with breakfast-specific nutrition education would help decrease the amount of overweight and obese students.

When the study began, 21% of participating students were obese. At its end two and a half years later, 12% of the students who ate breakfast in the classroom and 4% of students who ate breakfast in the cafeteria had a BMI in the obesity range. 

Researchers say that more research is needed to understand exactly why more students who ate breakfast in the classroom were overweight. One hypothesis is that the students may have already eaten breakfast at home or on the way to school and received a second meal in the classroom.

Around 12.2 million children from low-income communities take part in the School Breakfast Program nationally.

Read the full story via philly.com.

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