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Attitudinal barriers to school breakfast programs identified

Focus groups conducted by Penn State researchers have identified the attitudinal barriers among parents, students, school administrators and foodservice directors that contribute to Pennsylvania's low rate of participation in school breakfast programs.

Elaine McDonnell, instructor and project coordinator who did the study analysis, says, "Breakfast has been related to lower rates of obesity, better academic performance and lower absenteeism and tardiness, yet the rate of participation in Pennsylvania still lags behind participation in the National School Lunch Program. The Commonwealth ranks 38th among the states in school breakfast program participation."

The researchers observed that parents who participated in the study did not perceive a major role for themselves in promoting school breakfast programs. However, school administrators did see parent support as crucial.

"Parents need to know that they will be listened to and can play a bigger role in obtaining in-school breakfasts for their children," McDonnell notes.

She presented the results of the focus groups in a paper, "Barriers to the Initiation and Promotion of the School Breakfast Program," Oct. 28, at the American Dietetic Association meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

Her co-authors are Dr. Claudia Probart, associate professor of nutrition; J. Elaine Weirich, research associate; Dr. Terryl J. Hartman, assistant professor of nutrition; and Catherine Nguyen, undergraduate student.

In the focus groups, school administrators identified scheduling, limited instructional time, cost, poor student interest, and attitudes about school vs parent responsibilities as barriers.

Foodservice directors identified lack of support from key individuals such as administrators and teachers as the primary barrier along with unpleasant attitudes of cafeteria staff, limited time and poor perceived value of school meals program.

Parents were supportive of school breakfast program
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Contact: Barbara Hale
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
28-Oct-2003


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