Start or Expand a School Breakfast Program

Girl steps up to register to get a school breakfast as staff looks on

Start a School Breakfast Program

Starting a breakfast program enables students who may not otherwise have access to a nutritious meal in the morning to eat breakfast when they arrive at school. To make sure your program has the highest possible impact, there are many things to consider. It is important to assess your school(s) to determine which breakfast model will be the best fit. Busing schedules, cafeteria capacity and equipment, staffing, and logistics should all be considered.

Once you have decided on a model, you should analyze the financial viability of the program. CNOP can help calculate various costs and determine the best options for your program and your bottom line.

Finally, introducing a successful school breakfast program requires support from the whole school community. Involving all stakeholders and promoting the program through all available channels helps to ease the process and increase awareness of the program.

Expand a School Breakfast Program

Expanding your breakfast program can increase participation and ensure that more students have access to a healthy school breakfast each morning. As with starting a new breakfast program, it is important to consider  the range of logistical needs of your school community to determine which breakfast model may be the best fit.  

Expanding your program to include breakfast after the bell options are is an effective way to increase participation. Serving breakfast in the classroom, offering “Grab & Go” kiosks or bags, or cycling students through the cafeteria in shifts throughout the morning are all ways to help more students access breakfast. Piloting the program in one grade or one classroom can also help build confidence in expanding breakfast programs as you prepare to roll out a program across the school or district.

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.

Types of Breakfast Models

Whether you are looking to start or expand a program, there are many ways the National School Breakfast Program (NSBP) can be implemented. Breakfast can either be served before the school day begins, after the bell, or some combination of the two. While breakfast is traditionally served before the bell in the school cafeteria, the breakfast models with the highest participation rates are often served after the school day begins. These include Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab & Go Breakfast and Second Chance Breakfast. After the bell models allow all students to access a healthy morning meal, no matter when they arrive to school. Serving breakfast after the bell also  reduces the stigma associated with eating breakfast before school in the cafeteria by integrating breakfast into the school day. Research also shows that eating breakfast closer to class time has a greater impact on students' success.

Breakfast in the Classroom

Breakfast is served in the classroom, usually during homeroom or first period. In a BIC model, coolers are brought to each classroom and students are served at the beginning of class. Since this model makes breakfast a regular part of class time, schools and districts often achieve the highest rates of success in boosting participation.

Find resources for implementing BIC. 

Grab & Go

In a Grab & Go model, easy-to-eat breakfast foods are packaged in individual bags for students to take as they enter the school building. Schools can set rules for where breakfast can be consumed, such as playgrounds, hallways, the cafeteria, and classrooms. Breakfast stations are often located at school entrances or other high traffic areas. Coolers can also be placed on each level of the school to allow students to grab breakfast on their way to class.

Second Chance Breakfast

In a Second Chance Breakfast model, students eat their morning meal in the cafeteria after school has begun, sometimes during homeroom or during the morning announcements. To maximize the number of students participating, many schools attempt to make the cafeteria the morning gathering place or only allow students to enter the school building through the door closest to the cafeteria. If the school cafeteria is too small to accommodate all of the students at once, classroom teachers can take their students to the cafeteria at specific intervals during homeroom. This option allows for a greater range of meals, as it is served and eaten in the cafeteria.

Before the Bell

In traditional Before the Bell programs, breakfast is served before the school day officially begins. Students arrive early in order to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. Like Second Chance Breakfast, this option allows for a greater range of meals, as it is served and eaten in the cafeteria.

Learn More:

Start or Expand a School Breakfast Program 

Reimbursement Regulations

Promote School Breakfast

Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge

School Meal Applications Overview