Student and Parent Perceptions of Barriers to and Benefits of the School Breakfast Program in Southeast Alabama
Type of Degreethesis
Nutrition and Food Science
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The purpose of this exploratory study was to discover the factors impacting participation in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) for elementary school students in southeast Alabama. Nine focus groups were used to gather qualitative data from two groups: 1) fourth and fifth grade students from southeastern Alabama public schools; and 2) parents and guardians of fourth and fifth graders from these schools. Altogether, six focus groups were with students and three focus groups were with parents and guardians, from a total of five schools. Based on responses from all participants, five major themes emerged to explain why students do or do not participate in the SBP: 1) belief that breakfast is important; 2) dislike of the foods being offered; 3) timing and scheduling; 4) cost of the school breakfasts; and 5) stigma. The issue of costs was a surprising find, with parents stating that although they don’t qualify for the free or reduced-price meals, many of them cannot afford it. It appears that the state of Alabama could increase SBP participation by expanding the program to provide meals for all students, regardless of their family’s income. This would also aid in addressing the stigma barrier. Improving the palatability and variety of foods offered, as well as providing a means for students who are late to still eat breakfast may increase SBP participation.