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School Breakfast Programs

California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
May 16, 2013

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. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 14.9 percent or nearly 17.9 million of American households were uncertain of having or acquiring enough food to feed their families in 2011. This food insecurity rate is worse in California, where 16.2 percent (about 2.1 million) of households did not have enough money or resources for food.

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

In alignment with the TCHK 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 more information on the TCHK Web site at [Note: The preceding link has been replaced with]

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 California Department of Education (CDE) School Nutrition: Breakfast in the Classroom Web page at 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. According to the Food Research and Action Center School Breakfast Scorecard, California showed an increase of 9.5 percent in breakfast program participation in 2012. An average of 1.3 million California children participated in 2012 each day in the SBP, which is approximately 63,000 more than in 2011.

  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 James Rickner, School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Specialist by phone at 916-445-7360 or by e-mail at

If you would like information on innovative breakfast models, visit the BreakfastFirst Web site at In addition, the USDA maintains the School Breakfast Program: Expanding Your School Breakfast Program Web page at, which offers additional ideas and helps promote and expand SBPs as a way of supporting positive outcomes for children.

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your county SNP Specialist or local CDE Field Services Unit Child Nutrition Consultant. Contact information can be found in the Download Forms Section of the Child Nutrition Payment Information System, Form #SNP 21.


Tom Torlakson


Last Reviewed: Thursday, November 17, 2016

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