Kids who eat breakfast do better at school

School Breakfast is a powerful tool. Good nutrition is essential to every student’s success: Hunger can impact every aspect of their lives physically, socially, and mentally.

Kids who eat breakfast at school do better on tests, attend class more often, feel less anxious and are calmer, have greater focus, and are more likely to graduate.

The problem: In Oregon, less than a third of all students are served breakfast on an average day.

The solution: Improving access by changing service models, engaging parents and students, and achieving great meal quality. Students do better when they start the day with a nutritious breakfast. Making breakfast a seamless part of the school day by changing how and when it is served so all students can access this important meal will have a huge impact on classrooms and schools.

Having breakfast at school ensures that all students get a nutritionally balanced start to their day, and supports greater health, cognition, and stronger participation in learning. Expanding breakfast access would also mean that  many families experiencing a  tight budget, non-traditional work hours, or a busy morning schedule, can be supported by the School Breakfast Program.  Strong child nutrition programs also benefit School food nutrition departments financially, when they are able to reach more children with school breakfast; like options that feed all students at no charge, such as Provision 2 and Community Eligibility Provision, help yield federal reimbursement dollars to support strong programs and improve school meal quality.

Our motivation

The reality is that for many low-income families there are obstacles to providing a healthy morning meal each day. Prior to the Pandemic, 1 in 5 children were food insecure and 52% of students qualified for free and reduced priced meals in the state of Oregon. However, hunger rates in Oregon have heavily increased, and are reaching a low lower than the US average. Participation in the school breakfast program continues to be low.  Only about 23 percent of all students participate in the School Breakfast Program, compared to the almost 50% who participate in the National School Lunch Program.

Barriers to Breakfast

In Oregon, the majority of schools serve School Breakfast before school starts and in the cafeteria. However, this traditional way of operating the school breakfast program doesn’t work for many students, and creates extra barriers for families who might have trouble accessing food.

Some common barriers include:

  • Awareness. School lunch is well known, but families tend to hear less about school breakfast and their eligibility as it’s not always included in communications that are sent home
  • Transportation or other access issues such as rushed morning schedules or buses not arriving in time for students to eat in the cafeteria before class
  • Social stigma that eating breakfast at school is “only for low-income families”, especially  amongst middle and high school students
  • Lack of inclusivity of meals for different cultural groups or dietary needs

Strategies that move breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom are the most successful at overcoming barriers to participation.

What is Free School Breakfast and how do I access it?

In Oregon, the majority of schools serve School Breakfast before school starts and in the cafeteria. However, this traditional way of operating the school breakfast program doesn’t work for many students, and creates extra barriers for families who might have trouble accessing food. The School Breakfast Program (SBP) provides federal reimbursements to providers who operate nonprofit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare institutions. The program is administered at the Federal level by the USDA and at the State level by the Oregon Department of Education. More information about the School Breakfast Program is available here. 

Over 315,000 kids are eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program, and yet only about 206,000 kids participate.  In Oregon, around 273,000 students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, yet only 110,000 students are enrolled. You may be eligible for free school meals even if you weren’t in the past. Thanks to legislation passed in 2019, the income eligibility guidelines for families have been expanded, making all families making 300% of the federal poverty level eligible for free school meals in Oregon. Due to the pandemic, this process will be delayed until schools return to their normal in-person instruction/operations. Check in with your local school district for more details or on how to fill out a Free and Reduced Price meal application or fill out the application with the Oregon Department Of Education.

Want more information about free and reduced price school meals or interested in finding out if your family is eligible?

Find out here

State Advocacy efforts: The Student Success Act

Oregon has been leading the nation in improving access to school meals. The Hunger-Free Schools provisions were signed into law by Governor Kate Brown on May 16, 2019 as part of the landmark Student Success Act, which addresses decades of disinvestment in Oregon’s schools. The Act has made a historic investment in school meals and will ensure no student goes hungry while at school, with provisions that address both the cost of meals and the way breakfast is served. Learn more at https://oregonhunger.org/hunger-free-schools/

The provision has three main components:

If you are a school, site, or family who has been impacted by this legislation, please look below in the training and tools section or the success stories to learn more about different types of models. It is important to note that all of these changes will potentially begin in the 2021-22 school year due to delays caused by the COVID Pandemic.

Over 310,000 Children

Over 310,000 Children

are eligible for free school breakfast, but only about 110,000 participate.

are eligible for free school breakfast, but only about 110,000 participate.

Help us connect more kids to school breakfast through the work of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

donate today

Additional Resources

In Oregon, the majority of schools serve School Breakfast before school starts and in the cafeteria. However, this traditional way of operating the school breakfast program doesn’t work for many children, as it can create unnecessary barriers for low-income families.

Schools that move breakfast out of the cafeteria and after the bell are the most successful at overcoming barriers to participation and School Breakfast Program participation increases exponentially. This way of serving breakfast is called the Breakfast After the Bell model. It makes breakfast participation convenient by serving it in places children can easily access — in classrooms, in hallway kiosks, or even later in the morning.  The way schools serve breakfast is customizable and frequent methods include: Grab and Go, Second Chance, or Breakfast in the Classroom.

Over 100 schools in Oregon have successfully made the switch to serving breakfast after the bell.

Interested in revamping your school’s breakfast program?

Breakfast after the Bell Implementation Guide

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Breakfast After the Bell Toolkit for Teachers, Principals, and Other Educators

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The first step in changing the way your school serves breakfast is to evaluate what service model would work best for their students and staff.

Download the below materials for best practices, resources, and local partners for offering DIY or structured activities.

NHK Breakfast FAQ 

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Smarter Lunches Cafeteria Scorecard

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FRAC Breakfast After the Bell Program

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NHK Breakfast Changes Rollout Timeline

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FRAC Alternative Models Fact Sheet

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Promoting the School Breakfast Program and raising awareness. Use the materials below to get the word out in your school, in the media, at community locations, and online.

Breakfast Banner

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School Breakfast Poster

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Breakfast Family Flyer

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Funding opportunities for child nutrition programs in Oregon, especially around the School Breakfast Program.

Oregon Department of Education Grants

For several years, the Oregon State Legislature has designated state funds for the expansion of summer and after school child nutrition programs, including programs that serve breakfasts throughout the summer. Application materials can be found on the Department of Education website or by contacting ODE CNP Specialist Deanna Poynor at [email protected]

Additionally,  with the new breakfast mandates, grants may be available for equipment and program costs for schools starting new Breakfast After the Bell models for the academic year 2021-2022.  Check the Oregon Department of Education Breakfast After the Bell webpage for updates and to be notified when grant funding will be available.  For more information, please contact ODE Child Nutrition Programs at [email protected].

USDA grants

USDA currently offers Equipment Assistance Grants for School Food Authorities The current grant cycle is open until September 2022. State agencies competitively award equipment assistance grants to eligible school food authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), giving priority to high need schools (i.e., schools in underserved areas, schools with limited access to other resources, and age of food service equipment) where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals.

These funds will allow SFAs to purchase equipment to serve healthier meals that meet the updated meal patterns, with emphasis on more fruits and vegetables in school meals, improve food safety, and expand access. For additional resources through USDA, please visit their grants page.

Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council Grants

Through the Fuel up to Play 60 Grants up to $4,000 per school is available for healthy eating and physical activity initiatives. The application closes Wednesday, April 28, 2021. For more information, Contact Erin Hirte at [email protected] or Crista Hawkins at [email protected].

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign

The No Kid Hungry campaign frequently has opportunities for School Breakfast Program funding, check their website for updates. These include the No Kid Hungry and Kellogg School Breakfast Grant and No Kid Hungry and Amazon Breakfast After the Bell Grant. If you have any questions about the application, please contact via email at [email protected] or call 202-649-4342.

Model Programs

Schools across Oregon have found that substantially more children eat breakfast when it is served after the bell and free of charge for all students, when viable. By offering breakfast after the bell, as part of the school day, schools can eliminate barriers such as bus schedules and stigma that get in the way of students eating this important meal.

Breakfast after the Bell programs can look many different ways. Common models for this type of breakfast program are: Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab and Go breakfast, and Second Chance breakfast.

Universal Breakfast, where breakfast is offered at no cost to students, is a helpful addition to any breakfast model, as it removes the financial barriers students may face when participating in School Breakfast Programs.  Offering breakfast at no cost increases breakfast participation, and removes stigma lower-income students often face when they eat breakfast at school. Schools can enroll in a few federal programs to assist with offering universal breakfast, including the Community Eligibility Provision and Provision 2.

Fact sheet on Federal Programs and Funding OptionsWatch: Video on Free Breakfast

Second Chance Breakfast

This model is effective for middle or high school students who may not be hungry first thing in the morning, don’t arrive in time, or prefer to socialize with friends in the morning before class. In a Second Chance Breakfast model, students eat breakfast during a break in the morning, often between first and second period. Schools often serve breakfast in the hallway using a Grab and Go model, or they can open the cafeteria to serve breakfast during the break.

School Spotlight: Woodburn High School, Woodburn School District

Learn more about Woodburn High School’s Second Chance Breakfast Program

watch here

Breakfast in the Classroom

In the Breakfast in the Classroom model, Students eat breakfast in their classroom after the official start of the school day. Students or staff deliver breakfasts to classrooms from the cafeteria via coolers or insulated rolling bags. Students eat while the teacher takes attendance, gives announcements and gets the day started. Up to 15 minutes can count as instructional time, the average length this model takes.

School Spotlight: Grandhaven Elementary, McMinnville School District

Learn more about  Grandhaven Elementary’s Breakfast in the Classroom Program

watch here

Grab and Go

Students pick up breakfasts from mobile carts in areas that are convenient to students, such as hallways, entryways, or cafeterias. Students can eat in their classroom or in a common area before and after the bell has rung.