Breakfast and the Brain: How Eating Breakfast Impacts School Performance

smiling girl The claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has an abundance of sound science behind it. A brief compiled by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) outlines the correlation between breakfast and school performance among children, based on numerous research findings. The findings include how eating, and not eating, breakfast affects academics, brain function, and overall wellness.

Children who do not eat breakfast at home or at school were less able to learn. Hunger can lead to lower math scores, attention problems, and behavior, emotional, and academic problems. Furthermore, studies show that children who are consistently or often hungry are more likely to repeat a grade. It is these problems that have lead many schools to participate in school breakfast programs including the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) School Breakfast Program and the Breakfast in the Classroom program. Both programs make breakfast available to all students. While it is true that students can chose not to eat, children themselves have reported a belief that eating breakfast increases their energy and ability to pay attention in class.

Providing breakfast at school can also ensure that children are getting enough to eat. Children who eat a complete breakfast have been shown to work faster and make fewer mistakes in math problems and to perform better on vocabulary tests than those who ate only a partial breakfast. They also show improved concentration, alertness, comprehension, memory and learning.

Beyond academics, children who participate in school breakfast programs show decreased anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity. The breakfast offered can improve a child’s overall nutrition by providing her/him with necessary vitamins and minerals and can actually reduce the risk of obesity!

Numerous studies show how students will benefit from school lunch programs in the classroom and beyond. Visit the links below to discover how your school community can benefit from school breakfast. 

Read more about School Breakfast Programs and Successes HERE. 


Katherine Baildon: Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs


Levin, Madeline. “Breakfast for Learning: Scientific research on the link between children’s nutrition and academic performance” Food Research and Action Center. Fall 2011.