Universal access to the School Breakfast Program (SBP) is intended to help low-income and food-insecure students overcome barriers to eating breakfast. However, SBP participation is often still low despite universal access. Further information is needed with regard to these children's breakfast behaviors, and in particular breakfast behaviors among youth from food-insecure families, to inform effective breakfast interventions.
The objective of this study was to examine breakfast behaviors among a large sample of urban students with universal access to the SBP and to identify differences in breakfast behaviors among children from food-secure compared with food-insecure households.
A cross-sectional study of 821 fourth- through sixth-grade students and their parents from 16 schools was conducted. Students reported the foods/drinks selected and location of obtaining food/drink on the morning of data collection, parents reported household food security status using the 6-item Food Security Survey Module, and the school district provided SBP participation data during the fall semester of 2013. Multivariable linear regression models accounting for school-level clustering were used to examine differences in breakfast behaviors across 3 levels of household food security: food secure, low food secure, and very low food secure.
Students participated in the SBP 31.2% of possible days, with 13% never participating in the SBP. One-fifth (19.4%) of students purchased something from a corner store for breakfast, and 16.9% skipped breakfast. Forty-six percent of students were food insecure; few differences in breakfast behaviors were observed across levels of food security.
Despite universal access to the SBP, participation in the SBP is low. Breakfast skipping and selection of foods of low nutritional quality in the morning are common, regardless of household food security status. Additional novel implementation of the SBP and addressing students' breakfast preferences may be necessary to further reduce barriers to students obtaining a free, healthful breakfast. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01924130.