School Nutrition Directors, Take Action!

School nutrition directors (SND) know that students are not the only ones who benefit from the school breakfast program. Since the school nutrition department operates on a tight budget, it is important to maximize revenue in order to cover food and labor costs. Since reimbursements for free, reduced-price, and paid meals help to offset these costs, high breakfast participation numbers mean more federal and state dollars for the nutrition department.

Action Step 1: Eliminate cost barriers

The ultimate goal of the school nutrition department is to ensure that all children have access to healthy school meals. Cost should not be a barrier to eating breakfast. Making sure that all children are assigned to the appropriate eligibility category based on their household income is an important step towards making school breakfast more accessible to all students.

Strategies:

  • Make sure that all children who fall into one of the following categories are automatically signed up for free meals regardless of household income. They do not need to complete a school meal application.
    • Runaway
    • Migrant
    • Homeless
    • Foster (in the care or custody of the Department of Children and Families)
    • Live in a SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) recipient household
    • Live in a TAFDC (cash assistance) recipient household
  • Encourage those families that are slightly over income for free or reduced-price meals to apply for SNAP. In the state of Massachusetts, income eligibility for SNAP is higher than for school meals. Therefore, some families may qualify for SNAP even if they have been denied school meal benefits. If a family is able to receive SNAP benefits, their children will be automatically eligible for free meals. Refer families to Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline to get screened for SNAP benefits at 1-800-645-8333 or visit gettingSNAP.org.
  • Look at our school meal application outreach strategies and materials for more information on maximizing the number of returned school meal applications.
  • Serve breakfast free of charge to all students regardless of household income in elementary schools in which 60% or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Schools that participate in the Universal Breakfast Program are eligible to receive additional state funds.
Tools: SNAP tear-off pad, Foster Child Leaflet
 

Action Step 2: Eliminate logistical barriers and stigma

When breakfast is served before the start of the school day, students are often unable to get to school in time for the morning meal. Those who are able to arrive early often feel stigmatized by participating in what is often perceived as a “poor kids” program. By incorporating breakfast into the official school day, breakfast is more accessible to all students and eating at school is normalized.

Strategies:

  • Serve breakfast in the classroom, create breakfast kiosks, offer Grab n' Go breakfast bags, or cycle kids through the cafeteria in shifts throughout the morning. These methods encourage greater participation among students who are hesitant to try breakfast. Pilot the program in one school or one classroom to show principals and teachers that it can work.
  • If choosing to serve breakfast outside of the cafeteria, work with cafeteria staff to develop a system for pre-packing, delivery, and point of service accountability. Make sure that breakfasts are easy to transport, eat, and clean up.
  • Read our School Breakfast Models page for more information on different breakfast serving methods.

Tools: Guide to Breakfast in the Classroom, Guide to Starting or Expanding a School Breakfast Program, Breakfast Start-up Toolkit

 

Action Step 3: Promote the school breakfast program

Even if families are aware that the school has a breakfast program, they may not know much about it. They might be confused about breakfast logistics including how much it costs, whether or not a child needs to sign up in advance, what is served, et cetera.

Strategies:

  • Submit your breakfast menus to newspapers and local cable channels for publication. Post the breakfast menu and nutritional information on the school's website.
  • Invite parents to visit the school cafeteria during parent open houses and Back to School night. Explain how the program works and offer free samples of foods typically served at breakfast.
  • Present information about school breakfast at PTO and teachers meetings.
  • Invite teachers to eat breakfast in the cafeteria with their students.
  • Ask student leaders for suggestions on breakfast choices, promotions, and ways to attract their peers.
  • Hold events during breakfast, such as a special guest, raffle, or contest.
  • Check out the wide range of free breakfast outreach materials available on this website.

Tools: Newspaper Article Templates, School Breakfast Parent Brochure, Student Survey, Breakfast Flyers