Quick Facts

  • States have passed a variety of types of legislation to increase school breakfast participation.
  • Many states have long-standing requirements for all or some schools to operate a school breakfast program, or provide additional funding to support the program.
  • Several states provide funding to eliminate the reduced-price copay for students may eat for free.

State School Meals Legislation Chart

2015–2016 School Year.

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Breakfast After the Bell Legislation

In many of the top-performing states for school breakfast participation, state legislatures have gone even further to ensure low-income children start their day with a healthy meal. In these innovative states, the adoption of school breakfast after the bell legislation has been the key catalyst for growth and maintaining high breakfast participation.

Since 2010, five states and the District of Columbia have adopted legislation requiring all or some schools to offer free breakfast after the bell:

States With Breakfast After the Bell Legislation

  • District of Columbia

    In 2010, the District of Columbia became the first to legislate breakfast in the classroom. The D.C. Healthy Schools At requires all public and public charter schools in the District to offer free breakfast to all students.

    Elementary schools with more than 40 percent of the students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals must serve it in the classroom. In addition to traditional breakfast served in the cafeteria before the start of the school day, middle and high schools must serve breakfast through an alternative breakfast model like breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” carts, or second chance breakfast.

  • Colorado
    In July 2013, the Colorado state legislature passed a law requiring schools with 80 percent free and reduced-price-eligible children to offer universal breakfast after the bell starting in the 2014–2015 school year. The mandate extended to all schools with 70 percent free and reduced-price-certified students in the 2015–2016 school year.
  • Illinois
    In 2016, Illinois passed legislation requiring that breakfast be served after the bell to schools with at least 70 percent or more free and reduced-price-eligible students. The mandate goes into effect in the 2017–2018 school year.
  • Nevada
    In 2015, the Nevada State Assembly passed a bill that requires schools with 70 percent or more free and reduced-price eligible students to offer free breakfast after the bell, provided there is state funding to support implementation. The bill provides $2 million in funding for two years (SY 2015–2016 and 2016–2017).
  • New Mexico
    In 2011, the New Mexico legislature passed a mandate requiring all elementary schools with 85 percent or more of enrolled students eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year to implement universal breakfast after the bell.
  • West Virginia
    The Feed to Achieve Act, passed in 2013, requires all schools to adopt a delivery system approved by the state agency that ensures all students be given an adequate opportunity to eat breakfast, including but not limited to, “grab and go” breakfast, breakfast in the classroom, or second chance breakfast.