Overcoming the Barriers

School Breakfast

The School Breakfast Program remains underutilized: just over half of the low-income children who eat school lunch also eat school breakfast.

The traditional school breakfast program — served before school in the cafeteria — misses too many children and creates unnecessary obstacles for low-income families. Strategies that move breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom are the most successful at overcoming barriers to participation


  • Rushed morning schedules and non-traditional work hours make arriving at school early to eat breakfast difficult for busy families.
  • Buses arrive too late for children to eat breakfast in the cafeteria.
  • The social stigma that the breakfast program is only for “poor kids” keeps the children who need the meal most from participating, especially among middle and high school students.
  • See Fund Local projects to learn how to remove breakfast program barriers

School Breakfast Policy & Advocacy – Breakfast After the Bell



The School Lunch Program remains the most utilized program with 61% of eligible low-income children participating. 

Most school lunch programs are served in the same traditional cafeteria that you remember. They are important strategies to make school lunch more attractive to all children including food composition and quality, student engagement in menu planning and increasing the time period for students to eat.


  • Parents are unwilling to share personal financial information on paper free and reduced priced meal applications due to privacy concerns.
  • Some families are eligible for a reduced priced (40 cents) lunch. However, even at this level the financial barrier can be too much for struggling families
  • A social stigma remains that the lunch program is only for “poor kids”. This pressure keeps children who need the meal most from participating, especially among middle and high school students.
  • Time constraints: Schools lunch schedules start as early at 10:30 am and turn-over every 20 minutes
  • Food composition and quality does not meet the student’s interest
  • Communicating the complex free and reduced priced qualification rules to families can be a challenge in an environment that rightfully places privacy at a top concern. These same rules can also restrict the school’s willingness and ability to actively solicit eligible families to apply for meal benefits. The result is that a child goes unfed.
  • There are a number of reasons a family may need to turn the free and reduced priced meal program to supplement meals for their child. Sudden unemployment, underemployment, struggles with health and wellness and more. Child nutrition programs are designed to assist these families during these difficult times to ensure the child is nourished so they are ready to learn.

  • See Fund Local projects to learn how to remove lunch program barriers

School Lunch Policy & Advocacy – Reduced lunch


Summer Meals

The Summer Food Service Program remains one of the most underutilized programs with just under 25%  of eligible low-income children participating.

Summer Food Programs leave too many children behind and create unnecessary obstacles for low-income families. Strategies to make summer food programs the most successful are ones that work in conjunction with existing enrichment programs at the school.


  • Transportation to summer food sites is a barrier in rural parts of our state.
  • Summer food sites are often not marketed well.
  • Many schools do not open summer food sites due to the lack of staffing and/or the risk of financial loss.
  • Food composition and quality do not meet the students’ interest.
  • See Fund Local projects to learn how to remove summer food program barriers.