School Breakfast Program But Not School Lunch Program Participation is Associated with Lower Body Mass Index

The third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study (SNDA-III) does not link the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to rates of "overweight or obesity." However, the benefits of participation in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) are not evenly distributed among racial/ethnic groups.

This article used SNDA-III data to explore a possible relationship between rates of overweight and obesity, Body Mass Index (BMI), and participation in school meal programs. A number of interrelated demographic and lifestyle factors complicate data that relates school meal program participation to the weight status of children. This study employed an array of statistical controls to counteract the clouding effects of these factors. Control variables included several measures of student's physical activity level.

Key Findings:

  • Middle school-age, non-Hispanic African-American girls demonstrate significantly higher rates of overweight and obesity than boys of their own race and white and Hispanic girls of the same age group.
  • Participation in SBP can have a significant lowering effect on BMI. The effects of regular participation are concentrated among white students.
  • Children from high-income households tend to have lower BMI than children from low-income backgrounds.

Data on the weight status of participants' biological parents was not available.