A Group Randomized Intervention Trial Increases Participation in the School Breakfast Program in 16 Rural High Schools in Minnesota

Published:February 14, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2018.12.007



      Breakfast consumption is associated with better diet quality and healthier weights, yet many adolescents miss breakfast. Nationally, 17.1% of students participate in the School Breakfast Program (SBP). Only 10% of high school students participate.


      Our aim was to evaluate an environmental intervention to increase SBP participation in high schools.


      A group randomized trial was carried out from 2012 to 2015.


      Ninth- and 10th-grade students enrolled in 16 rural schools in Minnesota (median 387 students) were randomized to intervention or control condition.


      A school-based intervention that included two key components was implemented over a 12-month period. One component focused on increasing SBP participation by increasing student access to school breakfast through changes in school breakfast service practices (eg, serving breakfast from a grab-n-go cart in the atrium; expanding breakfast service times). The other component focused on promoting school breakfast through student-directed marketing campaigns.

      Main outcome measure

      Change in school-level participation in the SBP was assessed between baseline (among ninth and tenth graders) and follow-up (among tenth and eleventh graders). School meal and attendance records were used to assess change in school-level participation rates in the SBP.

      Statistical analyses

      The Wilcoxon test was used for analysis of difference in change in mean SBP participation rate by experimental group.


      The median change in SBP participation rate between baseline and follow-up was 3% (interquartile range=13.5%) among the eight schools in the intervention group and 0.5% (interquartile range=0.7%) among the eight schools in the control group. This difference in change between groups was statistically significant (Wilcoxon test, P=0.03). The intervention effect increased throughout the intervention period, with change in mean SBP participation rate by the end of the school year reaching 10.3% (95% CI 3.0 to 17.6). However, among the intervention schools, the change in mean SBP participation rates was highly variable (range=–0.8% to 24.8%).


      Interventions designed to improve access to the SBP by reducing environmental and social barriers have potential to increase participation among high school students.


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      M. S. Nanney was an associate professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      A. Shanafelt is a project coordinator, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      K. Y. Grannon is a research assistant, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      C. Caspi is an assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      R. Leduc is a research associate, Division of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      Q. Wang is a researcher, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      L. J. Harnack is a professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      M. Hearst is an associate professor, Public Health Program, Saint Catherine University, St Paul, MN.


      M. Schroeder is an associate extension professor, University of Minnesota Extension, Marshall.


      M. Y. Kubik is a professor, College of Public Health, Department of Nursing, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; at the time of the study, she was an associate professor, School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.