Food and learning connection shot down

Sunday Star Times 14 oct 2012
Feeding hungry schoolchildren does nothing to boost their learning, a new report shows. The findings have surprised experts in a week when campaigning to introduce free food at schools to combat child poverty put pressure on the Government. The only “significant positive effect” was that children felt less hungry, the study into free school breakfasts found. Head of the study, Associate Professor Cliona Ni Murchu, said there were indications that attendance at school was also likely to improve but in reading, writing and maths there was no noticeable improvement. Researchers at Auckland University’s School of Population Health studied 423 children at decile one to four schools in Auckland, Waikato and Wellington for the 2010 school year. They were given a free daily breakfast – Weet-Bix, bread with honey, jam or Marmite, and Milo – by either the Red Cross or a private sector provider. Despite the findings going against the assumption that well-fed children concentrate better and therefore do better at school, the report has not deterred the advocates of free food at schools. “I’m not a researcher but I have been in the game for 36 years and I would support taking an educational role around diet,” said John Coulam, president of the Waikato Principals Association.