Costs per school breakfast drop more sharply than per-lunch costs as number served increases
Across America, on a typical school day more than 30 million children sit down to meals prepared and served through USDA’s National School Lunch Program and 13.5 million through the School Breakfast Program. Some school districts serve as many breakfasts as lunches, but other districts serve mainly lunches. Since production costs often depend on volume, this smaller number of breakfasts served raises questions about how per-breakfast costs compare with per-lunch costs. To examine how size affects costs, ERS researchers used data from a 2004 national survey (latest regionally representative cost data available) of local school food authorities (SFAs). The researchers constructed cost indices to examine how breakfast and lunch costs would vary if more meals were served. They found that for all three urbanicity types—urban, suburban, and rural—per-breakfast costs dropped by about 50 percent as the number of breakfasts grew from below average to above average. Because SFAs were already serving more lunches, lunch costs also dropped, but by just 20 percent. This chart appears in “Schools Vary—And That Means Meal Costs Vary Too” in the December 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.