School Breakfast Program

Mapping School Breakfast

Want to see what breakfast looks like in your state? Check out FRAC’s new interactive map highlighting program participation and grant funding data to serve as a tool to expand school breakfast participation at the state and local level.

Breakfast Matters Conference Calls and Webinars:

The School Breakfast Program makes it possible for all school children in the United States to receive a nutritious breakfast every school day. First established by Congress as a pilot program in 1966, the School Breakfast Program became a permanent entitlement program in 1975 and has continued to expand year after year.

2012-2013 School Year School Breakfast Participation

from FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard

  • 13.2 million children participated in the program on a typical day.
  • 85 percent of children served each day received a free or reduced price breakfast.
  • 88,380 schools operated a school breakfast program.
  • 90 percent of schools serving lunch also served breakfast.
  • For every 100 children receiving free and reduced price lunch, 51.9 received free and reduced price breakfast.
  • The ratio varied in states from 39.3 per 100 to 70.0 per 100.

More Information about the School Breakfast Program

Why the School Breakfast Program is Important

Many children would not otherwise eat a nutritious breakfast every morning.
Often families are living on very tight budgets and can’t afford to provide a good breakfast at home every day. Regardless of income, families today live busy lives that can make it difficult to sit down long enough in the morning to eat a nutritious breakfast. Other children may have long commutes to school or long periods between breakfast at home and school lunch, leaving them hungry at the start of the school day.

Eating breakfast at school supports health and learning for low-income children.
Studies conclude that students who eat school breakfast increase their math and reading scores as well as improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests. Research also shows that children who eat breakfast at school – closer to class and test-taking time – perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home.

Compared to children who do not eat breakfast or eat breakfast at home, children who eat school breakfast:

  • are less likely to be overweight,
  • have improved nutrition,
  • eat more fruits,
  • drink more milk,
  • consume a wider variety of foods.

To learn more about research on the benefits of school breakfast, check out these issue briefs highlighting the links between school breakfast and favorable education and health outcomes:

Offering breakfast free to all students improves the learning environment for all students.
Schools that offer breakfast free to all students in the classroom report decreases in discipline, psychological problems, visits to school nurses and tardiness; increases in student attentiveness and attendance; and generally improved learning environments.

How the School Breakfast Program Operates

The School Breakfast Program provides per meal cash reimbursements to public and nonprofit private schools and residential childcare institutions that provide free and reduced-price breakfasts to eligible children. The program is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides funding for the program, and at the state level by either the state department of education or agriculture. USDA provides a list of state administering agencies on its website.

School Breakfast Program Reimbursement Levels for the 2014-2015 School Year

  • Free – $1.62
  • Reduced-Price – $1.32
  • Paid – $0.28

“Severe needs” schools, where at least 40 percent of the lunches served during the second preceding school year were free or reduced-price qualify for an additional 31 cents for each free or reduced-price breakfast.

Who Can Participate in the School Breakfast Program

Any student attending a school that offers the program can eat breakfast. Children from families with incomes:

  • At or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for free school meals.
  • Between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for reduced-price meals and can be charged no more than 30 cents per breakfast.
  • Above 185 percent of the federal poverty level pay charges (referred to as “paid meals”) which are set by the school, but schools receive a small federal reimbursement for such children.
  • For more information on certifying children for free and reduced-price meals, the School Meal Eligibility page.

Resources on Eligibility for Free and Reduced-Price School Meals

Most children are certified for free or reduced-price meals via applications collected by the school district each year. However, children in households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), as well as foster youth, migrant, homeless, or runaway youth, and Head Start participants are “categorically eligible” (automatically eligible) for free school meals without the need for an application. School districts are required to “directly certify” children in SNAP participant households for free school meals through data matching of SNAP records with school enrollment lists, and have the option of directly certifying children in TANF and FDPIR households as well.