School Breakfast Program

The School Breakfast Program (SBP) provides nutritious breakfasts to children, and operates in about 90,000 public and nonprofit private schools (grades PK-12) and residential child-care institutions. On average, SBP provided low-cost or free breakfasts to 14.8 million children each school day in fiscal year (FY) 2019, at a total cost of $4.5 billion.

In FY 2020, SBP participation averaged 12.4 million children each school day and total expenditures on the program amounted to $3.6 billion. These declines are attributable to disruptions in the program’s operations in the second half of FY 2020 due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which forced the closure of schools and child care institutions beginning in March. In response to these disruptions and to meet rising food needs, USDA issued a series of waivers allowing for flexibilities in the implementation of the SBP and expanding the scope and coverage of the program’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO). Overall, about 1.8 billion meals were served through SBP or SSO, 25.3 percent fewer than in FY 2019.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the SBP and reimburses participating schools and residential child care institutions for the meals served to students. Any student in a participating school can get an SBP breakfast. Students from households with incomes:

  • At or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty line can receive a free breakfast.
  • Between 130 and 185 percent of the Federal poverty line can receive a reduce-price breakfast.
  • Above 185 of the Federal poverty line can receive a low cost full-price breakfast.

In FY 2020, 87.7 percent of all SBP meals were served free or at a reduced price, about 2.6 percentage points more than in the previous year. An ERS-sponsored study found that elementary school-age students are more likely to participate in the SBP when they come from lower income or time-constrained households. Other ERS research found that the share of students receiving a free breakfast has increased over the last decade. To learn more about participation in SBP, please see:

Children with access to the SBP are more likely to eat breakfast in the morning. Another ERS-sponsored study found that, by increasing the likelihood that children would eat breakfast, SBP was associated with children having a lower Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of weight status. To learn more, please see:

Additionally, participation in USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs, including SBP, have been found to reduce food insecurity. To learn more about the impact of SBP on food insecurity, please see:

ERS has also investigated factors associated with a school's ability to serve healthy, appealing breakfasts within its cost constraints. To learn more, please see:

All figures are based on data available as of January 2021 and are subject to revision.

For the latest information on updates to the program during the COVID-19 pandemic see FNS Responds to COVID-19.

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