Despite widespread availability of morning meal programs, a large number of Canadian students are still skipping breakfast, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

The study looked at the eating habits of 42,000 students from 87 secondary schools in Alberta and Ontario during the 2014/15 school year. It found that 39 percent of students reported eating breakfast fewer than three days in a typical school week.

The findings were consistent with national data that showed nationwide, 48.5 percent of adolescents skipped breakfast at least once a week.

“In spite of the widely-acknowledged value of youth having a healthy morning meal, breakfast skipping is highly prevalent among Canadian adolescents,” said Katelyn Godin, a doctoral candidate at Waterloo and lead author of the study. “While we do know that breakfast programs are having a positive impact, with one-fifth of adolescents reporting eating breakfast at school once-a-week, there is still room for improvement.”

Godin said breakfast programs are not reaching their full potential in Canada due to a lack of social awareness about their diverse benefits, lingering social stigma and limited economic support for the programs.

“Canadian breakfast programs are currently supported by a patchwork of funding and would benefit from something more consistent,” said Godin.

The study was done in collaboration with Scott Leatherdale, associate professor and Karen Patte, postdoctoral fellow, both of Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems and members of the COMPASS Research team.

The study was published recently published in the Journal of School Health.

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