One in four children in San Diego County go to school without breakfast. According to the Food & Research Action Committee, numerous studies conclude that “students who eat school breakfast increase their math and reading scores as well as improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests. Research also shows that children who eat breakfast at school perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home.” In addition to giving our kids the nutrition they need to succeed academically, ensuring every child receives a nutritious breakfast is a sure-fire way to reduce child hunger.
Unfortunately, research from California Food Policy Advocates has shown that only 40% of low-income students in San Diego County are reached by traditional school breakfast programs. To address this, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) selected the San Diego Hunger Coalition to work in partnership with the San Diego Unified School District to implement alternative breakfast strategies at select middle schools.
Principal Nicola Labas of Clairemont’s Innovation Middle School, where 59% of students are eligible for free or reduced price school meals, has implemented a breakfast program with a creative twist. Apart from access to enough food, students also struggle with the Internet access they need for schoolwork.
Principal Labas’ program offers students access to both Internet and nutritious breakfast and at once. Her solution is iCafe, a school breakfast stand, in an area with Internet access, open an hour before school starts. iCafe is an immediate success. The program has only been open for one month but school breakfast participation is already up by 11%. Innovation Middle School’s students love it. One of their favorite meals is a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola. iCafe is also helping to remove the stigma associated with lack of access to food and Internet. The program has become so popular as a resource and social event that the school band came to play at the iCafe on December 9.