No Kid Hungry Starts With Breakfast!

In California, 1 in 6 kids are facing hunger. School breakfast provides the consistent nutrition kids need to learn, grow and reach their full potential. No kid should start the day with an empty stomach!

Eating breakfast has a real, powerful effect on kids. Research shows that kids who eat breakfast are more focused, score significantly higher on tests, and miss less days of school. When COVID-19 hit us two years ago, everything changed overnight. School breakfast was no exception. School breakfast and lunch programs were adapted to reach kids in their time of need. We saw meal sites pop up in the parking lot of shuttered schools, and bus drivers transporting meals along delivery routes, bringing food directly to kids in need. 

When kids were finally able to return to school buildings, alternative breakfast models like Grab-and-Go and Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC)  kept students and staff safe, while also ensuring more kids could benefit from the morning meal they rely on. As a result, nearly 14 million kids across the country benefited from school breakfast last school year alone.

These are the common sense solutions No Kid Hungry has long advocated for and invested in to improve access to school breakfast. Even in normal times, they remove barriers that prevent kids from eating breakfast before school starts, like rushed mornings, bus schedules and even stigma.

The School Breakfast Program is a federally funded program which assists schools and other agencies in providing nutritious breakfast to children at reasonable prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing the program nationally. In California, the program is administered by the California Department of Education

Beginning in School Year 2022-23, California will become the first state to implement a statewide Universal Meals Program for all school children. California’s Universal Meals Program is designed to build on the foundations of the federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).

This means, the California’s State Meal Mandate is expanded to include both a nutritiously adequate breakfast and lunch for all children each school day!

Breakfast After the Bell (BAB), where breakfast is served after the official start of the school day, is one of the most effective ways to significantly boost school breakfast participation. BAB programs often incorporate elements of multiple models and can look different in each school. There are three innovative delivery models that have proven to be most effective:

1) BREAKFAST IN THE CLASSROOM (BIC)

Students eat breakfast in their classroom after the official start of the school day. Students or staff deliver breakfasts to classrooms from the cafeteria via coolers or insulated rolling bags. Breakfast in the Classroom takes 15 minutes on average. Schools reach 88 percent breakfast participation on average with this model.*

2) GRAB N’ GO TO THE CLASS ROOM

Students pick up conveniently packaged breakfasts from mobile service carts in high traffic areas that are convenient to students, such as hallways, entryways or cafeterias. Students can eat in their classroom or in a common area before and after the bell has rung. Schools reach 59 percent breakfast participation on average with this model.*

3) SECOND CHANCE BREAKFAST

Students eat breakfast during a break in the morning, often between first and second period or midway between breakfast and lunch. Schools can serve breakfast using a Grab and Go model, or they can open the cafeteria to serve breakfast during the break. Second Chance Breakfast can be effective for middle or high school students who may not be hungry first thing in the morning or prefer to socialize with friends. Schools reach 58 percent breakfast participation on average with this model.*

* Participation is measured by the average daily participation of free- and reduced-price school breakfast eaters / average daily participation free- and reduced-price school lunch eaters.

MYTH: IT TAKES AWAY FROM INSTRUCTIONAL TIME

FACT: Students usually take 10-15 minutes to eat their breakfast, including clean-up time. Educators often spend that time constructively on classroom activities. Some educators report that they gain instructional time due to fewer behavioral disruptions, visits to the school nurse, tardiness and absenteeism. Studies show that students who eat school breakfast are more likely to reach higher levels of achievement in reading and math, score higher on standardized tests, have better concentration and memory, be more alert, and maintain a healthy weight. 

MYTH: IT MAKES A MESS

FACT: When students and staff are trained to properly dispose of breakfast items, Breakfast After the Bell (BAB) is a simple and clean experience. By developing a holistic, smart system involving the school nutrition staff, custodians, and students, trash issues can be overcome. Sometimes, something as simple as a separate trash bin for breakfast trash can make a big difference. Educators find that with appropriate planning and clear procedures, BAB can become a seamless part of the morning routine.

MYTH: BAB BURDENS TEACHERS

FACT: Educators know that students who are hungry cannot concentrate and may act out or disrupt class. Educators spend about $300 per year of their own money to feed hungry students in their classrooms. BAB alleviates this burden on educators and provides students with a nutritious meal to last them to lunch. Studies have shown that bringing universal breakfast into the classroom significantly improves students’ behavior. Educators can spend more time teaching and less time discipling students. Also, BAB fosters an environment for social-emotional learning as students authentically practice relationship skills and decision-making. 

MYTH: BAB IS PAID FOR BY SCHOOL FUNDS

FACT: The more kids who eat school breakfast, the more revenue the district has to make their breakfast program a success. Schools that participate in the National School Breakfast Program (SBP) are eligible to receive federal reimbursement for every breakfast they serve. Other revenue sources come from state and local government, a la carte sales, and other student payments. The school breakfast budget operates independently from the district general fund and individual school budgets. School breakfast is never in competition with school supplies or teacher salaries. 

For more myths busted, download the factsheet.

Resources

SCHOOL DISTRICT SPOTLIGHT

Vaughn Next Century Learning Center

Learn more about what Frances Montoya-Gatewood and her team doing to feed hungry kids. 

Tell Us How Your District Operating Breakfast/BAB/School Meals at nokidhungryca@strength.org

Be sure to visit our Center for Best Practices for up-to-date and additional resources, materials, and information!

For technical assistance and support, contact us.

Last Reviewed: March 15, 2022