Eating a healthy breakfast every day may be directly linked to student achievement and overall behaviour, said a report released Friday by the Toronto District School Board.

The report comes at the end of a two-year study called "Feeding our Future: The First-And Second-Year Evaluation," which monitored the relationship between nutrition and student success.

The study -- the first of its kind in Canada -- followed 6,000 students from four different middle schools and three high schools in 2008 and 2009.

The study monitored the Feeding Our Future program, a program that provides a morning meal to students in seven Toronto schools in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood, regardless of the student's ability to pay. It determined what effect nutrition has on student health, behaviour, attendance, attention and achievement.

The program operates on the belief that student nutrition is a key factor in ensuring student success.

While the short-term goals of the program were to improve student health, behaviour and achievement, the long-term goals included boosting graduation rates and decreasing levels of diabetes and hypertension in the community.

Several findings in the report show the program is achieving many of its stated goals.

The study showed that students who ate the healthy daily breakfast had an improved ability to stay on task, better behaviour, higher rates of attendance and were less likely to be suspended.

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • 78 per cent of students who ate breakfast at school most days were on track to graduate compared to 61 per cent who ate breakfast only on a few days or not at all
  • Middle school students who ate breakfast at school on most days achieved or exceeded provincial reading standards by a rate 10 per cent higher than students who did not have breakfast
  • Middle school students who ate breakfast at school most days achieved better results in science courses
  • Middle school students who ate breakfast at school showed higher rates of independent work, problem solving and class participation
  • Secondary school students who ate breakfast at school were half as likely to be suspended and were more likely to attend school regularly

The report recommended a few improvements be made to the program including recruiting students, parents and community members as volunteers, as well as consulting with students over menu choices.

School board officials say this study provides evidence that confirms the long-held belief that nutrition plays a vital role in ensuring student achievement.

"This work gives us concrete facts about the direct relationship between nutrition and the academic success of our students," said Donna Quan, Toronto District School Board academic deputy director. "Healthy food makes healthy students, which allows them to grow and focus better in the classroom."