The School Breakfast Program is a federally funded program that assists schools and other agencies in providing nutritious breakfasts to children at reasonable prices. The United States Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing the program nationally. In Iowa, the program is administered by the Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Food and Nutrition.

School Breakfast Program - Fact Sheet
School Breakfast Program Meal Pattern Chart

Program Information

Why should we participate in the School Breakfast Program?

There are numerous reasons to have breakfast at school. Many children do not have the opportunity to eat breakfast on a regular basis. These children are hungry when they reach school or by mid morning. The link between nutrition and its affect on children's ability to learn has moved beyond just anecdotal evidence. Research has proven these facts.

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 in the school district where they are enrolled. 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 menus that 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 Iowa 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 $750,000 or more in federal funds (from all sources) must also be audited each year.

What are the differences between the School Breakfast Program and the Severe Need Breakfast Program?

The primary difference between the two programs is that the Severe Need Breakfast Program offers higher rates of reimbursement for sites determined to be in severe need. To be eligible, two years prior, 40 percent or more of the lunches served at the site were served free or at a reduced price and the reimbursement rate per meal is insufficient to cover the costs of the school's breakfast program. Sites must annually re-establish their eligibility for the Severe Need Breakfast Program.

How do we get reimbursed?

The School Breakfast Program is operated on a reimbursement basis. The United States Department of Agriculture and the State of Iowa provide funding. Agencies submit a monthly reimbursement claim form to the Iowa Department of Education that covers all school nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast Program.

Under the Breakfast Program, reimbursement is based on the number of breakfasts served by eligibility type multiplied by the appropriate reimbursement rate. State reimbursement is paid for all free and reduced price meals. Refer to the most recent copy of the "School Nutrition Programs.


Breakfast Signage

Reimbursable meal identification signage can assist students in selecting their meal choices and reduce unintentional purchase of food items not included in the reimbursable meal. The signage supports schools in meeting the "Identification of Reimbursable Meals" regulation that is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The signage can be posted or placed in a letter sized clear acrylic sign holder.

Iowa Expanding School Breakfast Toolkit - Collection of resources for program operators and other stakeholders to establish or expand the breakfast service within their school. 

Best Practices Guide - Part of a project with the University of Iowa and represents the student perspective on practices related to school breakfast and provides solutions to common school breakfast challenges including: awareness, competing priorities, timing, location, food preferences, and misconceptions.

USDA School Breakfast Toolkit - Collection of digital resources to provide information to schools to establish or expand the school breakfast.

Stakeholder Surveys (USDA) - Sample surveys to send to parents, teachers, etc. to assess their interest and concerns with starting or expanding the breakfast program.

Build a Healthy Breakfast Editable Template