Eligibility for Free or Reduced-Price School Meals During the Shutdown
Families can apply for free or reduced-price school meals at any point during the school year. This is a long-standing rule to reflect the many changes in families’ economic circumstances that can occur. This practice applies to households with furloughed employees. To apply, families should contact their school nutrition department. School districts also have the flexibility to date the eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals as of the date of the application (rather than the later date on which they approve the application) to provide more immediate support to families. If a school district has questions, they should contact their state child nutrition agency.
The School Breakfast Program provides millions of children a nutritious morning meal each school day. School breakfast is a critical support for struggling families trying to stretch limited resources and provides children a significant portion of the nutrition they need to learn and be healthy.
Quick Facts: 2016–2017 School Year
- 12.2 million low-income children participated in the School Breakfast Program on a typical day.
- 92.5 percent of schools serving lunch also served breakfast.
- 56.6 low-income children participated in school breakfast for every 100 that participated in school lunch.
Any public school, nonprofit private school, or residential child care institution can participate in the School Breakfast Program and receive federal funds for each breakfast served. The program is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and in each state typically through the department of education or agriculture.
To find out the agency that administers the program in your state, check USDA’s list of state administering agencies.
Follow this link to USDA guidance on the School Breakfast Program.
Explore These Topics
- Benefits of School BreakfastStarting the day with a healthy school breakfast ensures that children have the nutrition they need to learn and thrive. A wide body of research supports the health and educational benefits of participation in the School Breakfast Program. Find out more about the research.
- School Breakfast Expansion StrategiesThe most successful strategies for increasing school breakfast participation are to serve breakfast after the bell and offer free breakfast to all students in high-poverty schools. Find out how to make these strategies work in your state or community.
- Community Eligibility ProvisionCommunity eligibility allows high-poverty schools and districts offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students and realize significant administrative savings. Many schools have opted to combine community eligibility with proven models like breakfast in the classroom, to boost breakfast participation.
- State School Breakfast LegislationStates have passed a variety of types of legislation to increase school breakfast participation, including legislation for Breakfast in the Classroom. Find out more.
- State Advocacy OpportunitiesState and local advocacy can have a dramatic impact on school breakfast participation — whether it is passing legislation to support school breakfast expansion, raising awareness of low participation rates in your state, or working to bring stakeholders together to support expansion of breakfast in the classroom. Advocates across the country have implemented these effective strategies to boost breakfast participation in their states and communities. Find out more.
- Eligibility and ReimbursementsLow-income children are eligible to receive meals for free or at a reduced-price based of their household income or participation in other government programs, such as SNAP. Find out more about how children are certified for free and reduced-price school meals.
- Serving Breakfast in Rural School DistrictsSchool breakfast is particularly important for low-income students in rural communities who are more likely than their peers in metropolitan areas to live in food-insecure households, and, who often face additional barriers to accessing the program. Learn more in our fact sheet: School Breakfast in Rural Communities – Get the Facts.
- Breakfast for Learning Education AllianceThe purpose of the Breakfast for Learning Education Alliance is to inform our members, affiliates, and networks about the important educational benefits of school breakfast and to promote the broader implementation of proven strategies to increase school breakfast participation, such as breakfast in the classroom.
Breakfast for Learning Education Alliance Statement of Support
Co-developed with The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the “Breakfast Blueprint” is a guide focused on breakfast after the bell programs — such as breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” breakfast, and second chance breakfast — because they are increasingly popular, are well-researched, and have successfully helped schools and districts improve students’ access to nutritious foods.
- School Breakfast After the Bell: Equipping Students for Academic Success – Secondary School Principals Share What Works
Co-developed with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), this report highlights the experiences of 105 secondary school principals from 67 districts that have integrated breakfast as a part of the school day by implementing a breakfast after the bell program, and provides insights into program benefits and best practices regarding how to launch a similar program.
Co-developed with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), this toolkit provides guidance to principals in how to effectively partner with their school nutrition department to bring “grab and go” breakfast, second-chance breakfast, or breakfast in the classroom programs to their schools.
Co-developed with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, this report provides guidance for principals interested in implementing Breakfast in the Classroom at their schools, and insights into the leadership they can provide to build a strong and sustainable program.
- Increasing Breakfast Participation to Improve Student Outcomes Fact Sheet for School Social Workers
Co-developed with the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), this resource provides school social workers with research and information to advocate for breakfast after the bell programs in their schools.
- Increasing Breakfast Participation to Improve Student Health Fact Sheet for School Nurses
Co-developed with the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), this resource provides school nurses with research and information to advocate for breakfast after the bell programs in their schools.
Tools You Can Use
Mapping School Breakfast: Participation, Funding, and Growth
Check out FRAC’s interactive map highlighting program participation and grant funding data to serve as a tool to expand school breakfast participation at the state and local level.