Effects of a free school breakfast programme on children's attendance, academic achievement and short-term hunger: results from a stepped-wedge, cluster randomised controlled trial
Ni Mhurchu, Cliona, Gorton, Delvina, Turley, Maria, Jiang, Yannan, Michie, Jo, Maddison, Ralph and Hattie, John 2013, Effects of a free school breakfast programme on children's attendance, academic achievement and short-term hunger: results from a stepped-wedge, cluster randomised controlled trial, Journal of epidemiology & community health, vol. 67, no. 3, pp. 257-264, doi: 10.1136/jech-2012-201540.
BACKGROUND: Free school breakfast programmes (SBPs) exist in a number of high-income countries, but their effects on educational outcomes have rarely been evaluated in randomised controlled trials.
METHODS: A 1-year stepped-wedge, cluster randomised controlled trial was undertaken in 14 New Zealand schools in low socioeconomic resource areas. Participants were 424 children, mean age 9±2 years, 53% female. The intervention was a free daily SBP. The primary outcome was children's school attendance. Secondary outcomes were academic achievement, self-reported grades, sense of belonging at school, behaviour, short-term hunger, breakfast habits and food security.
RESULTS: There was no statistically significant effect of the breakfast programme on children's school attendance. The odds of children achieving an attendance rate <95% was 0.76 (95% CI 0.56 to 1.02) during the intervention phase and 0.93 (95% CI 0.67 to 1.31) during the control phase, giving an OR of 0.81 (95% CI 0.59 to 1.11), p=0.19. There was a significant decrease in children's self-reported short-term hunger during the intervention phase compared with the control phase, demonstrated by an increase of 8.6 units on the Freddy satiety scale (95% CI 3.4 to 13.7, p=0.001). There were no effects of the intervention on any other outcome.
CONCLUSIONS: A free SBP did not have a significant effect on children's school attendance or academic achievement but had significant positive effects on children's short-term satiety ratings. More frequent programme attendance may be required to influence school attendance and academic achievement.
Field of Research
111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified 1117 Public Health And Health Services 1604 Human Geography
Socio Economic Objective
920499 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified
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