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School Breakfast Participation Leads To Academic, Psychosocial Improvements

A new study by researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and other institutions lends support to traditional beliefs about the importance of a good breakfast. The report in the September Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine finds that children who increase their participation in school breakfast programs tend to show improvement on a wide range of measures of social and academic functioning.

Conducted in public schools in Philadelphia and Baltimore, the study found that increased school breakfast participation correlated with less tardiness and absence, higher math grades, and reductions in problems like depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. The researchers also found that students were more like to participate in school breakfast programs when the meals were offered free to all students, compared with programs that provided free meals to low-income youngsters while others paid for their breakfasts.

"What your mom told you is true, eating a good breakfast really does make a difference," says J. Michael Murphy, EdD, the study's first author and a member of the MGH Child Psychiatry Service. "What we find particularly exciting is that this is a relatively simple intervention that can significantly improve children's academic performance and psychological well-being. Now the challenge is to ensure that each child actually gets a good breakfast, either at home or at school."

This study is the latest in a series conducted by Murphy and Ronald Kleinman, MD, MGH chief of pediatric gastroenterology, that examines the impact of undernutrition in low-income children. "While we don't usually see children who are really starving in this country, we know that a significant number of children experience hunger because their families cannot provide sufficient, nutritious food," Kleinman says. "In recent years our group and others have been defining just how big an issue what we call food insecurity is and how it may be linked to the pr
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Contact: Susan McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
(617) 724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
15-Sep-1998


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