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The Survey

In the summer of 2010, FRAC sent a survey regarding school year 2009-2010 school breakfast participation and practices to 35 large urban school districts. FRAC selected the districts based on size and geographic representation, seeking to look at not just the nation’s largest districts but at the largest school districts in a substantial number of states.

School food service staff in 28 districts responded between August and October 2010, and one district responded in December 2010, with data on the 2009–2010 school year, as well as answers to questions about current school breakfast practices.

The major goals of the survey were:

  • To determine the extent to which these districts reach low-income children with the School Breakfast Program and assess trends;

  • To consider the additional number of low-income students who would be served if the districts achieved higher participation rates and determine the federal dollars lost to the districts as a result of not providing these meals;

  • To monitor progress and examine the effectiveness of school districts’ efforts to increase school breakfast participation through the provision of “universal” breakfast (breakfast offered at no charge to all students) and the implementation of programs where breakfast is eaten in the classroom at the beginning of the school day; and

  • To collect information on promising practices in the districts that might serve as national models for increasing school breakfast participation by low-income students.


The data in this report were collected directly from the school districts’ food and nutrition department personnel through an email survey and follow-up phone interviews.

Student Participation Student participation data are based on the total number of breakfasts and lunches served during the school year, with average daily participation determined by dividing the data by the number of serving days provided by each district.

The Cost of Low Participation Rates The cost estimate is based on a calculation of the average daily number of children receiving free or reduced- price breakfasts for every 100 children receiving free or reduced-price lunches during the same school year. FRAC then calculated the number of additional children who would be reached if each district reached a ratio of 70 in breakfast to 100 in lunch. FRAC then multiplied this unserved population by the reimbursement rate for 169 school days of breakfast. (While some districts served breakfast for more or fewer days during the 2009–2010 school year, 169 was the national average.) FRAC assumed each district’s mix of free and reduced-price students would apply to any new participants, and conservatively assumed that no additional student’s meal would be reimbursed at the higher rate that “severe need” schools receive.

Food Research and Action Center

School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities


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