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Free school breakfasts

14 Ionawr 2014

Breakfast clubs for all help reduce breakfast skipping and increase healthy eating

Universal free school breakfasts may increase healthy eating and reduce breakfast skipping among children from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to Cardiff University research.

The research, examining the impact of the Welsh Government’s Primary School Free Breakfast Initiative, was carried out by Dr Graham Moore, Dr Simon Murphy and Professor Laurence Moore (now at Glasgow University) of the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), based in the University’s School of Social Sciences, with colleagues from Swansea University.

The initiative aims to improve the health of children in Wales by making free, healthy breakfasts available to all maintained primary schools. This differs from other breakfast club programmes, such as those in England, which have not been offered universally and tend to target schools in areas of deprivation.

The research team examined whether this universal provision, as opposed to targeted interventions, helped reduce inequality or if they had the opposite effect - widening inequality through disproportionately benefiting more affluent groups.

Dr Moore said: "In some settings, breakfast provision continues to be targeted toward areas of deprivation. However, targeted approaches may actually be a barrier to the uptake of school food interventions amongst children from poorer families, because of the stigma attached. Attention is increasingly turning to the need to identify interventions that are delivered universally but have a greater impact on individuals further down the socioeconomic distribution. This study provides important evidence that universal provision of free school breakfasts can benefit children from poorer backgrounds, in terms of discouraging breakfast skipping and increasing the consumption of healthier breakfast items.

"Offering free breakfast provision on a universal rather than targeted basis may play a significant role in reducing inequalities in health, and is unlikely to widen them. Making free breakfasts available to all pupils would avoid the stigmatisation of individuals, schools, families or communities which may occur when labelling them as needy, and may play a greater role in reducing social gradients in health outcomes."

The study, ‘Impacts of the Primary School Free Breakfast Initiative on socioeconomic inequalities in breakfast consumption among 9-11 year old schoolchildren in Wales’, is published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.


Notes to editors

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University Chancellor Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise encompasses: the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences; and the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, along with a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff's three flagship Research Institutes are offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places.

The Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), is a strategic partnership between Cardiff University, where DECIPHer is led by DR Simon Murphy, the University of Bristol, led by Professor Rona Campbell, and Swansea University, led by Professor Ronan Lyons. DECIPHer is part of a £20 million investment into public health research and is funded by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC), comprising the Economic & Social Research Council, The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK , the Wellcome Trust, the Welsh Government and the Medical Research Council. DECIPHer brings together leading experts from a range of disciplines to tackle public health issues such as diet and nutrition; physical activity; and alcohol, tobacco and drugs, with a particular focus on developing and evaluating multi-level interventions that have an impact on the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

For further information contact:

Dr Graham Moore

The Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)

Tel: 02920 879164