School breakfast programs

Program basics

  • Offer students a nutritious breakfast, often involving culturally relevant practices and food options
  • Can be served in the cafeteria before school starts, from grab-and-go carts in hallways, or in classrooms before the day begins
  • Schools participating in federal programs receive subsidies for each breakfast served

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)


Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population

All school-aged children

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Increased academic achievement, especially among nutritionally deficient or malnourished children
  • Increased school attendance
  • Increased healthy food consumption and improved breakfast nutrition

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Participation in these programs depends on the extent to which schools are able to reduce stigma around receiving free meals. Schools can reduce stigma by offering free- or reduced-price breakfast to all students, allowing students to eat together within classrooms, etc.
  • Successful programs include partnerships with nutritionists, health experts and community leaders.
  • Local governments should ensure that school breakfast programs become part of the district’s culture, facilitating buy-in within the community.
  • School teachers and administrators should be trained to handle questions about free or reduced cost meals in school with sensitivity and confidentiality.

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