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Project breakFAST: Fueling Academics and Strengthening Teens

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UM extension
University of Minnesota Extension. Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day. Yet, many teenagers skip breakfast. When teens don’t eat until lunch time, their energy sags mid-morning and their ability to learn suffers. More and more middle schools and high schools are adding "Grab and Go" breakfasts and Second Chance breakfasts to increase school breakfast participation.

The Project breakFAST toolkit contains:

  •    Guidelines and templates for getting started.
  •    Marketing and evaluation resources.
  •    Best practices from schools that have implemented successful Grab and Go and Second Chance breakfasts.
Funding Source
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health.
Free Material
Cost ($)
  • Evaluated
  • Pilot Tested
Evaluation Information

(See Final Report Below for more information.) Project breakFAST included 16 secondary schools in rural Minnesota, split into two equal groups. 
Group 1 participated during the 2013–14 school year, group 2 during the 2014–15 school year.

The intervention was structured as a randomized controlled trial: half of the participant schools in each group were designated as intervention schools, the other half served as comparison schools. 

To determine which students were eligible to participate in the study, we asked all 9th and 10th grade students present on the day of data collection at each participating school (N=5,767) to complete a brief screening survey. Students were eligible to enroll in the BreakFAST study if they were in 9th or 10th grade, spoke and wrote English well, had access to a phone, were typically in school at the beginning of the day, and ate breakfast three or fewer days per week (N=2,512). 
Depending on school size, between 50 and 75 of the eligible students at each school were randomly selected and invited to participate. Students of color were oversampled to more accurately discern trends in this population of students. Parents and student received a letter describing the study and inviting the student to participate. Student assent was obtained at the time of measurement. The final consented sample size was 904 students.
We collected data from two sources: 

1. Student data. Participating students completed a survey with questions about their history of participation in school breakfast programs, attitudes regarding breakfast, and their perceptions of social support and barriers to accessing breakfast at school. Students also completed at least one phone call with a trained dietitian to answer questions about their diet, and allowed us to record their height, weight, and body fat percentage.

2. School administrative data. Participating schools provided data regarding school breakfast purchases, attendance, academic performance, and number of disciplinary events in school for all 9th and 10th graders. Schools also provided data for these students as they progressed through high school.

Intervention schools increased school breakfast participation by 56%, while participation at comparison schools increased by only 7%. In addition, Project breakFAST followed a cohort of 904 students who did not eat breakfast on a regular basis prior to the study. Cohort students who were at intervention schools increased school breakfast participation by 105%, while students at the comparison schools increased participation by only 24%. Project breakFAST had a positive impact on the school foodservice budgets as cost-benefit analysis showed daily profits in intervention schools ranging from $90 to $489.