School Breakfast Outreach

What Can Advocates Do?

1. Create a state breakfast report

  • District by district report of school breakfast/lunch participation by low-income children.
  • Helps identify the districts that are doing a poor job with getting breakfast to kids.
  • Can be a short report and isn’t too time intensive.
  • Requires getting data from the state agency – use State/Local Data Report Toolkit resources (below).

2. Conduct targeted outreach to school districts

  • Select a few districts that are interested in expanding breakfast by making it part of the school day, but need help to do so.
  • Work with them to identify barriers and solutions to implementing alternative service models.
  • Help them obtain start-up funding and technical assistance from other school districts, state personnel or the Dairy Council.

3. Hold a “school breakfast summit”

  • Bring together key organizations such as the state child nutrition agency, Action for Healthy Kids, Dairy Council and other interested parties.
  • Share current work and develop strategies for working collectively in the state to expand breakfast participation.

What Can School Officials Do?

Provide administrative leadership and support to insure that every school in the district offers breakfast and that every student has the opportunity to eat.

Develop and implement effective School Wellness Policies that include insuring that no child begins the school day hungry.

Include school breakfast participation as a measure of success for each school building administrator.

Seek input from Food Service Staff on the timing of breakfast and lunch to insure maximum participation.

Engage in a rigorous outreach campaign each year to get meal applications from all potentially eligible families and to promote the healthfulness of school meals.

Encourage students and their families to take advantage of the benefits of school meals through multiple communications throughout the school year.

What Can State Legislators Do?

1. Pass state breakfast requirements
Many states already have laws mandating that certain schools participate in the program, at least in schools with significant concentrations of low-income students, to guarantee that the School Breakfast Program is widely available. Generally, requirements are linked to a school’s percentage of low-income students. This is defined by the proportion of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals, or by the proportion of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches. The percentage required before the school must offer a breakfast program varies widely. For example, West Virginia requires all schools to participate, while in Washington State all schools with more than 40 percent of lunches served at free or reduced price must offer breakfast. State legislators in those states that have not yet passed legislation, or where legislation can be improved, should introduce bills that would require an expansion of school breakfast programs.

2. Provide state funding for breakfast
To assist schools in providing breakfast to students, over half the states provide state funds for one purpose or another related to school breakfast: as additional per meal reimbursements (to supplement the federal per meal reimbursement); as start-up and/or expansion funds to finance costs related to the start of new programs or expansion of participation in existing programs; as payment for the costs of outreach; as incentive grants; or to pay for supervision costs. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, provide additional funding in reimbursements for lunch if breakfast is served. State legislators should work to increase state support for school meals in general, and breakfast expansion in particular.

School Breakfast Outreach Activities

All school districts are required to conduct outreach to children and families to encourage them to participate in the school breakfast program.  This outreach should occur regularly throughout the school year and include the following activities:

  • Include information about school breakfast in the packet of materials that go to parents at the beginning of the school year;
  • Feature easy-to-access information about school breakfast on the school website that highlights the fact that qualifying for free or reduced-price meals includes breakfast, not just lunch;
  • Promote breakfast frequently in emails, robo-calls (automated voicemails), on school district radio/TV stations when available, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, and other communications with parents;
  • Mail postcards to families to encourage them to participate;
  • Conduct promotional activities (e.g. contests, celebrity appearances, special themes) that encourage students to participate;
  • Enlist teachers and principals to encourage students to participate by providing information about the breakfast program and effective strategies to encourage students to participate (e.g. modeling good eating behaviors, scheduling before-school activities in the cafeteria during breakfast);
  • Provide school breakfast participation rates to principals, as they often are unaware of how few students participate in school breakfast;
  • Inform teachers  by having the School Breakfast Program as an in-services topic to make sure they know about the academic benefits to participation, barriers to participation, and ways that teachers can help encourage students to participate in breakfast; and
  • Form student nutrition committees to taste new items and promote the program among peers.