School Breakfast

Minnesota students are missing 29 million school breakfasts every year. The School Breakfast Program enables free- and reduced-price eligible students to access free or low cost breakfasts in schools. In Minnesota, low utilization of this program is widespread across Minnesota school districts. Overall usage is only 45%.

New breakfast meal service models such as Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab ‘n Go have been created in the last few years to make it easier for children to access school breakfast each morning. Adopting these best practices has been shown to increase school breakfast participation.


Hunger-Free Minnesota is working to add 4 million meals annually for low-income Minnesota children through increased utilization of the School Breakfast Program among low-income children.


Hunger-Free Minnesota leads the School Breakfast Initiative with partner organizations that work together to increase statewide participation in the School Breakfast Program by increasing awareness via targeted marketing and supporting schools with incentives and technical support.

  • Outreach: Hunger-Free Minnesota partners conduct outreach with key stakeholders, such as school administrators, principals, school nutrition directors, and the Minnesota Department of Education. Our partners also offer guidance to schools interested in making changes to the ways they serve breakfast.
  • Incentives: We enable schools to pursue changes in their breakfast service models, such as via cash incentives through the School Breakfast Challenge, infrastructure grants for equipment/marketing, and best practice case studies.
  • Awareness and Research: Promote proven, successful models that increase student access to school breakfast, including Breakfast in the Classroom and Breakfast-on-the-Go.

Hunger-Free Minnesota is proud to have enrolled 120 schools in the 2014-15 School Breakfast Challenge which is supported by the General Mills Foundation and the Cargill Foundation.


Research by the University of Minnesota shows that when children routinely eat breakfast at school, they:

  • Perform better academically
  • Have better attendance records and fewer behavioral problems
  • Are at a lower risk for being overweight or obese

A study by Deloitte and Share our Strength demonstrates the achievement impact of school breakfast in Minnesota. Currently, an estimated 47% of low-income middle and elementary school children that are eating school lunch are also eating school breakfast in Minnesota. If 70% of those eligible students who eat school lunch were also eating school breakfast 127,730 kids in need would get school breakfast. That could mean:

  • 62,508 additional days attended per year
  • 41,672 have better math scores per year
  • 10,418 additional graduates


Our Students: Low-income Minnesota children are missing 29 million school breakfasts every year.  More than 90% of these breakfasts are to be provided for free to the lowest income children. School breakfast program performance varies greatly by school district, but most are above 60% missing meals.

Our Economy: When students miss breakfast in school, the business community loses. In the 2011-12 school year alone, Minnesota schools missed over $53 million in breakfast revenue, and businesses that sell food to Minnesota schools missed a breakfast opportunity of $20 million.


Successful Breakfast Service Models
Traditional School Breakfast or Breakfast in the Cafeteria is where breakfast is served in the cafeteria before the start of the school day. The benefits of this model are that hot food can be served easily and food requires no special transportation or packaging. Schools can also make use of existing space that is already set up to accommodate a large number of students in one central location; this is especially true in schools where the cafeteria and gymnasium are shared spaces.

However, in many instances, this traditional model can inhibit participation in the School Breakfast Program. There are many students who need breakfast but do not get to the school early enough to eat it. In addition, many students want to avoid the stigma of being labeled as “poor” that is often associated with eating breakfast in school.

New breakfast meal service models have been created in the last few years that make it easier for children to access school breakfast each morning. Below are some models that have worked successfully in hundreds of Minnesota schools.

Breakfast in the Classroom
A model where students eat breakfast in their classroom after the official start of the school day. Often breakfast is brought to classrooms from the cafeteria by students via insulated rolling bags, or served from carts in the hallways by school nutrition staff using mobile service carts. Breakfast consists of easy-to-eat and easy-to-clean items, such as breakfast sandwiches or burritos, low-fat muffins or cereals, plus milk and fruit or juice.

Breakfast in the Classroom typically takes 10–15 minutes to prepare, eat, and clean up. It can happen simultaneously with morning tasks such as attendance and morning work, or it can be easily integrated with other instructional activities.

This method is also popular because it makes great use of space. In elementary schools in particular, the multi-purpose room (where meals are commonly served) is often used first thing in the morning for physical education classes or other purposes. This can make serving school breakfast in the multi-purpose room a challenge for custodial and food service staff when it comes to having the room back in order and ready to go. When breakfast delivery takes place in the hallway or classroom, this problem is mitigated.

Grab n’ Go
A model where students pick up conveniently packaged breakfasts from mobile service carts in hallways and/or entryways or in the cafeteria when they arrive at school. Students can eat in the cafeteria, the classroom or elsewhere on school grounds.

2nd Chance Breakfast/Brunch
A model where students eat breakfast during a break in the morning, usually after first period for secondary students or midway between breakfast and lunch for elementary students. Meals can be individually packaged and served in the same manner as they are with Grab n’ Go breakfast. 2nd Chance Breakfast is also called Breakfast After First Period, 2nd Chance Brunch or Mid-Morning Nutrition Break.

Many schools already offer a morning break and 2nd Chance Breakfast works very well in this instance. By serving a reimbursable eal at this time, students who were not hungry first thing in the morning, or those who ate breakfast very early, now have a chance to eat a healthy meal. With 2nd Chance Breakfast, more students eat breakfast at school.


Listen to principals and other school leaders and staff talk about what breakfast means to solving hunger in their schools: