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School Breakfast Program

Information about applying for and administering the School Breakfast Program (SBP).

Program Information

What is the School Breakfast Program?

The School Breakfast Program is a federally funded program which assists schools and other agencies in providing nutritious breakfasts to children at reasonable prices. The United States Department of Agriculture External link opens in new window or tab. is responsible for overseeing the program nationally. In California, the program is administered by the California Department of Education.

Why should we participate in the School Breakfast Program?

There are numerous reasons to start a School breakfast Program. Many children do not have the opportunity to eat breakfast on a regular basis because of working parents, long bus rides, or the inability of families to provide enough food. These children are hungry when they reach school. They will continue to be hungry until lunch time, or they may eat less nutritious food to stave off hunger pangs.

Studies have shown that children whose nutritional needs are met have fewer attendance and discipline problems, and their ability to learn is enhanced. In addition, those schools that have a National School Lunch Program (NSLP) make more efficient use of their food service department by also operating a School Breakfast Program.

What type of breakfast must be offered?

Please see our School Menu Planning Options page for meal pattern information and our Meal Patterns and Menu Planning page for complete information.

What is involved in operating a School Breakfast Program?

There are many similarities between the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program. Both programs must be open to all enrolled children. If a child already qualifies for free or reduced price lunches, then the child would also qualify for free or reduced price breakfasts. Also, records must be kept to document that the breakfast program follows all federal and state rules and regulations. Such records include: 

The California Department of Education's review of each agency's breakfast program is generally done in conjunction with the review of the agency's National School Lunch Program. Those agencies that annually receive $500,000 or more in federal funds (from all sources) must also be audited each year.

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What are the differences among the School Breakfast Program, the Basic Breakfast Program, and the Especially Needy Breakfast Program?

The terms Basic Breakfast Program and Especially Needy Breakfast Program are synonymous with the term School Breakfast Program. The primary difference between the two programs is that the Especially Needy Breakfast Program offers higher rates of reimbursement for sites determined to be in severe need if, two years prior, 40 percent or more of the lunches served at the site were free or at a reduced price. Sites must annually re-establish their eligibility for the Especially Needy Breakfast Program.

While the meal and record keeping requirements are the same, the reporting requirements differ. Basic Breakfast Program agencies must report food program cost and revenue information annually; Especially Needy Breakfast Program agencies must report this information quarterly.

How do we increase breakfast participation?

The United States Department of Agriculture maintains the School Breakfast Program: Expanding Your School Breakfast Program External link opens in new window or tab. Web page where information is available to help promote and expand School Breakfast Programs as a way of supporting positive outcomes for children

How do we get paid?

The School Breakfast Program is operated on a reimbursement basis. Funding is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and the State of California . Agencies submit a monthly reimbursement claim form to the California Department of Education that covers all school nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast Program. The State Controller's Office issues the reimbursement check approximately four to six weeks after the claim form has been submitted.

Under the Basic Breakfast Program, payment is based on the number of breakfasts served multiplied by the appropriate reimbursement rate. Under the Especially Needy Breakfast Program, payment is the lesser of: the number of breakfasts served multiplied by the appropriate reimbursement rate or the cost of providing the breakfasts. State reimbursement is paid for all free and reduced price meals. Please see our Rates, Eligibility Scales, and Funding page for the current rates and grant opportunities.

What types of agencies may participate?

Agencies that are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program may also participate in the School Breakfast Program. Such agencies include: public and private nonprofit schools, and public and private nonprofit licensed residential child care institutions (e.g., group homes, juvenile halls and orphanages).

Where can we get assistance?

Nutritionists and program staff from the California Department of Education are available to provide free technical assistance and guidance on how to operate a School Breakfast Program. Assistance is available on such topics as menu planning, proper food storage and preparation, record keeping and reporting, and clarifying federal and state regulations.

Whom do we contact?

Please see the county list of School Nutrition Programs (SNP) specialists in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). You may also contact the SNP Unit Secretary by phone at 916-322-1450.

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Questions:   School Nutrition Programs Unit | 800-952-5609
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