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Universal Breakfast. What is Universal Breakfast?. Breakfast is available at no cost to all students, regardless of their household income. An accurate meal count must be taken at the point of service. What is Universal Breakfast?.

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What is Universal Breakfast?

Breakfast is available at no cost to all students, regardless of their household income.

An accurate meal count must be taken at the point of service.

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What is Universal Breakfast?

Meals are counted and claimed for federal reimbursement according to correct income category- free, reduced or paid eligibility status. If operational costs exceed revenue, then the school district must make up the difference to the school’s non-profit food service account from non-federal sources. 

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Why Universal Breakfast?

  • Universal Breakfast dramatically increases student participation.

  • Universal Breakfast improves student achievement, diets, and behavior.

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Where Does Universal Breakfast Work Best?

In schools with greater than 70% of students eligible for free and reduced price meals.

Schools with fewer eligible students have operated the program successfully.

Individual circumstances should be evaluated.

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Factors Contributing to Success of Universal Breakfast:

Reduces stigma

Support of school personnel


Offer appealing choices

Reduction in competition

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Universal Breakfast & Serving Methods

Traditional breakfast in the cafeteria

In the classroom during school hours

Grab n’ Go from a central location

Mid-morning, after 1st period

Menus depend on the serving style

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Classroom ComponentEnhances Success

Serving Universal Breakfast in the classroom enhancesbreakfast success.

Baltimore City:

A school that switched to Universal Breakfast in the cafeteria increased participation 5%.

A school that offered Universal Breakfast in the classroom saw participation rate triple.

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Increases Student Breakfast Participation

Removes stigma

Increased revenue and economies of scale

USDA Universal Free School Breakfast Program Pilot Project showed:

Paid-eligible participation increased fourfold

Free and reduced price eligible participation doubled

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Financial Benefits of an Effective Breakfast Program

By maximizing breakfast participation food service directors receive:

The greatest amount of federal reimbursement and student payments.

Greater cafeteria staff efficiency resulting in more meals per labor hour.

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Financial Benefits of Increasing School Breakfast Participation

Provides additional revenue stream to the school district

Creates or expands jobs

Increases overall financial stability of foodservice

Brings money into the local economy

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Labor Costs Participation

Universal Breakfast can potentially lower labor costs:

No longer collect money

Speeds-up service

Participation rises increasing # meals/labor hour while decreasing labor cost/meal

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Determining Labor Needs Participation


Service method

Menu selections

Participation levels

Training/skills of personnel

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Minimum Participation ParticipationBreak-Even Sample Calculations

Step One: Calculating Per Meal Cost Without Labor

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Minimum Participation Participation Break-Even Sample Calculations

Step Two: Calculating Per Meal Income Without Labor

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Minimum Participation ParticipationBreak-Even Sample Calculations

Step Three: Minimum Amount of Labor Needed

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Minimum Participation ParticipationBreak-Even Sample Calculations

Step Four: Minimum Amount of Participation

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School Breakfast Program ParticipationCost/Benefit Analysis

  • Access through USDA School Breakfast Toolkit


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Phasing in Universal Breakfast Participation

Eliminate reduced price breakfast:

Students qualifying for reduced price meals receive their breakfast for free, while full priced students continue to pay.

Federal reimbursements may be enough to offset the cost due to increased participation.

Note: District must pay the difference for all breakfasts distributed to reduced-priced eligible and paid students.

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Conclusion Participation

One proven way to increase school breakfast participation is through Universal Breakfast.

Many schools are implementing strategies to increase student participation in School Breakfast Programs.

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Email Questions to: Participation


Universal Breakfast