Grab 'n' go breakfast better serves middle school children

Crunched for time, many parents are sending their children off to school without breakfast, but a trial program instituted in a Pennsylvania school may not only feed those in a rush, but better provide for those entitled to free and reduced price meals, according to Penn State researchers.

"Most school foodservice directors view the School Breakfast Program as much more than a program for children from economically disadvantaged homes," says Dr. Martha T. Conklin, associate professor of hospitality management. "The directors work to increase breakfast participation rates because of the importance of breakfast to healthy eating."

The researchers suggest that every child should eat breakfast because skipping breakfast is associated with less-healthful eating and in some studies, skipping breakfast was associated with childhood obesity. However, for those entitled to free or reduced price breakfast, skipping breakfast may be preferable to being singled out by walking to the cafeteria for what is perceived as a welfare meal. Other children may avoid the perceived stigma as well.

In one State College, Pa., middle school, 15 percent or 136 students were entitled to free or reduce priced breakfast, but only 4 percent of the total student population ate breakfast at school.

Conklin; Peter L. Bordi, associate professor of hospitality management; and Meagan A. Schaper, foodservice director, State College Area School District, approached the low breakfast problem by focusing on a way to improve service anonymity, as well as the effectiveness of the School Breakfast Program. Reporting in a recent issue of the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management, the researchers described their piloting of a Grab 'n' Go breakfast service.

They normally served breakfast in the cafeteria which is fully visible via windows from the hallway and administrative atrium. While the students all paid through a prepaid debit card system that masked who was paying for

Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
Penn State

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