Project: Evaluating the Impact of School Breakfast on Learning: Design and Feasibility
Award Year: 1999
Amount of award, fiscal 1999: $289,311.00
Institution: Mathematica Policy Research
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: This project develops a study design and analysis plan that would permit a scientifically defensible evaluation of the impact of school breakfast on learning and cognitive development of children. The study will evaluate the relative merits of previous approaches and develop a new study design and analysis plan for a future evaluation. Special focus would be put on an analysis plan for the use of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey (ECLS) to achieve the study goal.

A growing body of evidence points to nutrition as a potentially powerful way through which learning and educational attainment can be fostered by public policy. This evidence has great relevance for evaluating the benefits of USDA's School Breakfast Program (SBP). Much of the research on SBP since its inception has focused on its effectiveness in improving the diets and nutritional status of children. Less attention has been devoted to assessing the effects of SBP on cognitive development and learning. The impact of school breakfast on the learning and cognitive development of children is difficult to assess, and the methodology of a scientifically defensible study is difficult to design. Many of the existing studies that have attempted such evaluations did not adequately control for confounding factors, such as pre-existing individual differences or differences in the school environment. This contract will provide an authoritative review of the literature and develop a study design and protocol that would permit future evaluation of the impact of school breakfast on learning. A fixed-price contract was awarded to Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., at a cost of $289,311 in fiscal 1999. The study is expected to be completed with the submission of the final report in March 2001.

Topic: Data Collection and Methodology, School Lunch and Breakfast
Jacobson, J., R. Briefel, P. Gleason, and R. Sullivan. Designs for Measuring How the School Breakfast Program Affects Learning, E-FAN-01-013, USDA, ERS, December 2001.