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School Breakfast Programs

California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
September 27, 2012

Dear County and School District Superintendents, Charter School Administrators, and School Food Service Directors:


I am writing to you today to urge you to start or expand your School Breakfast Program (SBP), especially outside of the cafeteria, to serve the nutritional needs of your students and to strengthen their academic performance.

Research confirms the clear connection between health, learning, and attendance. Healthy children are more successful in school, have better attendance, are more attentive and well-behaved in class, and are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college. Healthy students not only excel academically, but are also more likely to positively engage in social, community, and extracurricular activities.

As honorary chair of the California Food Policy Advocates BreakfastFirst campaign, I promote the SBP inherently with my Team California for Healthy Kids campaign, which focuses on making healthy choices the easy choices.

In alignment with the Team California goal to promote good eating habits, the BreakfastFirst campaign aims to ensure that all students are served an optimally nutritious breakfast using innovative models such as Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab-and-Go, and Second Chance Breakfast. These models are known to dramatically increase meal participation, bringing the benefits of school breakfast to the maximum number of students. You will find information on the Team California for Healthy Kids Web site at

For ideas on feeding more kids school breakfast, please download the California Department of Education (CDE) Feed More Kids for School Breakfast Success Web document at [Please note the preceding link is no longer valid. For assistance, please contact the Education and Nutrition Policy Unit by phone at 800-952-5609].

In these tough economic times you may want to spend your county or district funds elsewhere, but here are some ways to alleviate costs incurred from starting or expanding an SBP:

  1. The implementation of innovative models like Breakfast in the Classroom links nutrition to our common goal of increasing academic achievement in school. In most cases, a breakfast can be funded completely by federal and state meal reimbursement. In addition, as former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and State Controller John Chiang shared in a joint letter in July 2010:

    As long as the breakfast is served and eaten in the classroom while otherwise allowable instructional activities are underway, the time will not be considered free time by auditors . . . The SBP is an easy way to enhance children’s health and improve their academic achievement.

    The full letter is located on the CDE Letters: Breakfast in the Classroom Web page at [Please note the preceding link is no longer valid. For assistance, please contact the Superintendent's Correspondence Unit by phone at 916-319-0800]. Since 2008–09, California schools have increased the number of breakfasts served by approximately 12.5 million. This reflects a remarkable daily increase in breakfast participation, an average of 6 percent, and over 69,000 meals during the past three years.

  2. The CDE offers up to $15,000 per school in School Breakfast Start-up and Expansion Grants. These grants assist schools in their efforts to start an SBP or increase participation in existing SBPs. The CDE has awarded 263 School Breakfast Grants in the past three years. For more information, please visit the CDE Finance and Grants Funding Web page at

    For details about these grants, please contact Amber Bender by phone at 916-324-8794 or by e-mail at[Note: the preceding contact information is no longer valid. Please contact Tara Chambers by phone at 916-323-7177 or by e-mail at, or Jennifer Howerter by phone at 916-327-6158 or by e-mail at].

I acknowledge the New Meal Pattern for the National School Lunch Program is upon us and the SBP requirements are in our near future. Whether you choose to continue breakfast offerings under the current requirements or start adding more whole-grain-rich items and/or increase fruit options, you will enhance the diet and health of school children, help mitigate childhood obesity, and take steps toward strengthening academic achievement.

If you would like information on innovative breakfast models, visit the BreakfastFirst Web site at You may also contact your CDE Field Services Unit Child Nutrition Consultant by phone at 916-445-0850 or 800-952-5609.


Tom Torlakson

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 8, 2016

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