School Breakfast Program

Latest News:

Many More Low-Income Children Starting the Day with School Breakfast, Find New Reports from the Food Research and Action Center

According to FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf) on state trends and School Breakfast — Making it Work in Large Districts (pdf), an average of 11.7 million low-income children ate a healthy morning meal each day at school during the 2014-2015 school year, an increase of 475,000 children from the previous school year.

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.

Mapping School Breakfast

Check out FRAC’s 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.

2014-2015 School Year School Breakfast Participation

from FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard

  • 13.7 million children participated in the program on a typical day.
  • 85 percent of children (11.7 million) served each day received a free or reduced price breakfast.
  • 89,771 schools operated a school breakfast program.
  • 91 percent of schools serving lunch also served breakfast.
  • For every 100 children receiving free and reduced price lunch, 54.3 received free and reduced price breakfast.
  • The ratio varied in states from 34.8 per 100 to 82.3 per 100.

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.