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Policy Library

Fight Child Hunger with School Breakfast Programs

Over 81% of public school teachers report that students come to school hungry at least once a week. Childhood hunger is linked to more frequent hospitalizations and school absences, reduced school performance, and increased behavioral problems. Federally-funded school breakfast programs can help — but not all hungry students participate when breakfast is only offered free to some. The “Healthy Breakfast, Healthy Kids Act” makes it easier for school districts to offer expanded breakfast programs that improve student performance and help fight hunger.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine (12), Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia

Introduced in:

California, Minnesota (12), Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Vermont (12)
Even if a state has enacted a policy, there may be aspects to be strengthened. We can help identify ways to improve lives in your state. Please reach out to our State Line: 1-833-STATES-1.

In The News

“'The champions of school breakfast are not just the school nutrition directors,' [Kevin] Concannon said. 'It’s principals and superintendents. They see the results. They see kids who aren’t falling asleep, who are doing better in classes.'”
“Students often miss the scheduled breakfast period because of long commutes and the fact that already overextended parents can’t get their kids to school any earlier. But some hungry kids are simply ashamed to admit in front of their peers that their families can’t afford basic food items.”
“'The study analyzed data coming out of Colorado and Nevada, which recently passed legislation requiring higher-poverty schools to serve breakfast as part of the school day. In both states, there was, on average, a 6 percentage point decrease in chronic absenteeism after schools adopted Breakfast After the Bell.'”


  • Schools and school districts with proper support
  • Families
  • Anti-hunger advocates


  • Anti-nutrition support activists
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
The State Line


Why is universal free breakfast effective?
Universal free breakfast makes breakfast available to all students regardless of their household income; this plays a critical role in making sure that every student is fed and prepared to learn. Schools that have it report improved attendance and decreased tardiness, improved learning environments, increases in student attentiveness and decreases in disciplinary issues and visits to school nurses.
Is this high cost to the state or schools?
No. In fact, serving breakfast to all students decreases the administrative costs per meal for the school and school district. And existing programs, such as the federal Community Eligibility Program, help provide financial support to provide universal free school breakfast. This bill is designed to help each school district find other sources of funding as well.

Model Policy

This act shall be known as the Healthy Breakfast, Healthy Kids Act.

Empowering schools to use proven best practices to provide school breakfast to more children.


(a) The legislature hereby finds:
  • (1) Every child in school needs to have nutritious meals in order to achieve his or her potential.
  • (2) Research shows that healthy eating, proper nutrition and regular physical activity result in students who have:
  • (i) increased standardized achievement test scores; (ii) improved attendance; (iii) reduced tardiness; (iv) improved academic, behavioral and emotional functioning; and (v) improved nutrition, and for many students, the nutritious breakfast at school is essential.
  • (3) Schools that provide universal breakfast programs also report:
  • (i) Decreases in discipline and psychological problems; (ii) decreases in visits to school nurses; (iii) decreases in tardiness; (iv) increases in student attentiveness; (v) increases in attendance; and (vi) improved learning environments, and these positive attributes are furthered through comprehensive healthy schools policies that include quality nutrition, integrating physical activity during the school day, and teaching children about the importance of embracing a healthy active lifestyle.
  • (4) An effective school breakfast program is not an interruption of the school day; it is an integral and vital part of the school day.
  • (5) Serving breakfast after the start of school increases participation in school breakfast programs.

(b) “Breakfast After the Bell” means a breakfast that is offered to students after the beginning of the school day. Examples of breakfast after the bell models include, but are not limited to: (1) “Grab and go,” where easy-to-eat breakfast foods are available for students to take at the start of the school day or in between morning classes; (2) “Second chance breakfast,” where breakfast foods are available during recess, a nutrition break, or later in the morning, for students who are not hungry first thing in the morning, or who arrive late to school; (3) “Breakfast in the classroom,” where breakfast is served in the classroom, often during homeroom or first period; and (4) “Vending options,” where breakfast foods are stocked in free vending machines made available to students before, during, or after first period.

(c) “Community Eligibility Program” means a program meeting federal requirements under 7 CFR 245.9

(d) “DEPARTMENT” means the department of education or other state department that has responsibility in STATE for assisting schools and school districts to implement school meals programs.

(e) "School breakfast program" means a program meeting federal requirements under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1773.

(f) It is the preferred policy of the state that each public school, nonprofit private school, and residential child care institution offers universal free school breakfast.

(g) It is the preferred policy of the state that schools and school districts implement Breakfast After the Bell programs.

(h) The DEPARTMENT shall develop and distribute educational resources for school districts and school meal coordinators that communicate best practices for implementing universal free school breakfast programs in schools that qualify to participate in the Community Eligibility Program and shall assist all eligible school districts to apply for Community Eligibility programs.

(i) The DEPARTMENT shall develop educational resources for school districts and school meal coordinators that communicate best practices for developing and implementing Breakfast After the Bell programs.

(j) The DEPARTMENT shall promulgate regulations to facilitate breakfast in the classroom counting as instructional time if that is within the Department’s jurisdiction or else will promulgate materials to the appropriate local jurisdictions to help them take that step.

(k) The DEPARTMENT shall develop educational resources for school districts and school meal coordinators that communicate best practices for including in-state agricultural products in school meals, including breakfast.

(l) The DEPARTMENT shall develop educational resources for school districts and school meal coordinators regarding federal, state, and private funding opportunities for universal breakfast after the bell programs.