NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Serving free breakfast in New York City classrooms has not improved student attendance or academic achievement, according to a new study.

City schools have offered free breakfast to students since 2003. The city’s Department of Education said the participation rate increased from 25 percent to 80 percent after schools started serving the breakfast in classrooms starting in 2007.

There were some concerns the move would lead to weight gain among students, but researchers at New York University and Syracuse University found it did not raise the rate of obesity.

“Moving breakfast into the classroom is intended to encourage participation in school breakfast programs, particularly among students unable to arrive early, and to reduce the stigma associated with a trip to the cafeteria,” said co-authors Amy Ellen Schwartz and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Some had hoped serving breakfast in the classroom would improve academic performance, attendance, and engagement, but researchers found “the effects on academic achievement were small and statistically insignificant.”

“While we find that providing breakfast in the classroom had large positive effects on participation in school breakfast programs, our analysis provides no evidence of hoped-for gains in academic performance, nor of feared increases in obesity,” said co-author Sean Corcoran. “When looking at academic achievement and attendance, there are few added benefits of having breakfast in the classroom beyond those already provided by free breakfast.”

The federal School Breakfast Program for “nutritionally needy” children is marking its 50th anniversary this year.


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