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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?

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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 (USDA) 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: 

  • Meal production records and inventory records which document the amounts and types of food used.
  • The number of breakfasts served each day, by site and by category (free, reduced-price, and full price).

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 Severe Need Breakfast Reimbursement?

The terms Basic Breakfast Program and Severe Need Breakfast Reimbursement are synonymous with the term School Breakfast Program. The primary difference between the two programs is that the Severe Need Breakfast Reimbursement 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 reduced-price. Sites must annually re-establish their eligibility for the Severe Need Breakfast Reimbursement.

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.

How do we get paid?

The School Breakfast Program is operated on a reimbursement basis, with agencies paid on the number of meals served. Agencies submit a monthly reimbursement claim through the Child Nutrition Information Payment System (CNIPS). After the Department reviews and approves the claim, it is processed by the State Controller's Office and a check is issued. Agencies typically receive reimbursement within four to six weeks after submitting the reimbursement claim. Visit the fiscal Nutrition Services Web page for claim for reimbursement instructions and calculation worksheets

Under the School Breakfast Program, payment is based on the number of breakfasts served multiplied by the appropriate reimbursement rate. 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.

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Questions:   School Nutrition Programs Unit | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Related Content
  • Breakfast in the Classroom
    July 1, 2010, Joint Letter with the California Department of Education and the California State Controller's Office regarding the importance of a strong School Breakfast Program (SBP).
  • Meal Supplements (Snacks) Under the NSLP
    Information about sponsoring after-school snacks under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • National School Lunch Program
    Information about applying for and administering the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • Special Milk Program
    Information about applying for administering the Special Milk Program in camps and schools that do not participate in the federal meal programs.
  • State Meal Program
    Information about meal requirements and reimbursement for schools that do not offer the federal lunch or breakfast programs.
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