Expanding Breakfast After the Bell in San Diego County

You’ve probably heard the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Whether you agree with this or disregard it as a mere cliché, studies show that this is a phrase we shouldn’t be ignoring. However, the harsh reality is that in San Diego County, 1 in 5 children don’t always have enough to eat. While the traditional School Breakfast Program is offered on many campuses and aims to address hunger and support student achievement, it has limited reach. Serving breakfast before the start of the school day leads to missed opportunities for students who cannot arrive early. Breakfast After the Bell is an innovative program designed to more effectively reach children by incorporating the benefits of a nutritious breakfast into their daily school routine.

San Diego Hunger Coalition has played a vital role in helping to implement and expand the following proven-effective Breakfast After the Bell models. We do so by working with school districts and nonprofits to provide technical assistance, share best practices, review eligible schools, conduct financial analyses, and support grant writing for equipment and other meal resources.


Within the last year, there has been a notable expansion of Breakfast After the Bell, particularly in the San Diego Unified School District. K-12 eligible schools (those participating in the National School Lunch Program) now serve Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab n’ Go and Nutrition Break, an allotted time after first period where breakfast is served from carts in the hallway or other high foot traffic areas of the campus. Following San Diego Unified’s lead, BIC is now also served at eligible elementary schools in Cajon Valley, as well as Felicita Elementary in the Escondido Union School District

Statistics gathered from Millenial, Montgomery, Roosevelt, Wilson, Bell & CPMA Middle Schools.

Statistics gathered from Millenial, Montgomery, Roosevelt, Wilson, Bell & CPMA Middle Schools.

Evidence shows that eating breakfast is healthy, especially for growing bodies. Research has proven that access to nutrition, particular breakfast, can enhance a student’s psychosocial well-being, reduce aggression and school suspensions, and decrease discipline problems (Brown et al., 2008). Marcie Beth Schneider, a member of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition and an adolescent medicine physician, explained how eating breakfast directly affects school performance: “Study after study shows that kids who eat breakfast function better. They do better in school and have better concentration and more energy.”

This increase in School Breakfast Program participation is an encouraging start, but there is still much to be done in the fight against child hunger. You can find out how San Diego County school districts are doing to implement Breakfast After the Bell in our Hunger Free Kids Report School District Profiles.

Join our efforts to ensure that all children have year-round access to healthy food. To get involved and find out how to become a champion for youth meals, visit the Hunger Free Kids Task Force webpage or contact our Hunger Free Kids Program Director Robin McNulty at Robin@sdhunger.org for more information.

Hunger Free Kids Convening Brings Together Experts in Child Nutrition, Hunger Relief, and Policy Solutions

Attendees, presenters, and panelists gather at the Hunger Free Kids convening on November 1, 2017 at Leichtag Commons.

Attendees, presenters, and panelists gather at the Hunger Free Kids convening on November 1, 2017 at Leichtag Commons.

Many afterschool programs serve a snack to keep children focused and engaged in active learning and play. Yet for many children, a snack is simply not enough. Afterschool “supper” is a meal like lunch that can help ensure all children don’t go to bed hungry. However, San Diego Hunger Coalition’s analysis found that only 9% of students enrolled in the Free and Reduced Price Meal program at school are participating in afterschool programs that serve supper. This is one opportunity to feed more children and youth without raising money to spend on food.

Opportunities for schools and youth-serving community-based organizations to expand their meal programs like afterschool suppers and tap into federal funds to support more robust programs are at the heart of the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s soon-to-be released report - Hunger Free Kids: Opportunities by District to End Child Hunger. The Hunger Coalition partnered with Alliance Healthcare Foundation as part of its iEngageU series to bring together experts in child nutrition, hunger relief, and policy solutions along with parents and other advocates for a convening on November 1st at Leichtag Commons, to preview of the report’s findings.

Presenters at the convening included keynote speaker Kathy Saile, California Director of No Kid Hungry, as well as:

The week following the Hunger Free Kids convening, our Executive Director Anahid Brakke, Research Director Heidi Gjertsen, Ph.D., and Hunger Free Kids Program Director Robin McNulty represented San Diego at the Alliance to End Hunger's 2017 national Sunshine Summit to End Hunger where they presented on the report's findings and how to start a hunger free initiative in other communities.

The full report will be released at the end of January. Sign-up to receive a link to where you can download a copy of the report when it is available. The report methodology and data on the school districts presented at the November 1st convening is available on our Hunger Free Kids Report webpage

Bringing Breakfast to the Classroom

School Breakfast.png

All children deserve access to school breakfast to support their learning. Decades of research prove that school breakfast greatly improves academic performance and student behavior.
However, more than 60% of low-income students in California do not eat a regular breakfast, which limits their ability to succeed in school.

In October 2016, Escondido Union School District (EUSD) made a move to change that statistic by rolling out Breakfast in the Classroom at Felicita Elementary School. EUSD plans to expand to more elementary schools in coming years.

Already, daily student participation in the breakfast program has increased by 60%. Now, 465 students, which is close to seven out of ten at the school, enjoy free breakfast each morning and teachers tell us it’s a great way to begin the school day.

Thanks to the work of California Food Policy Advocates, San Diego Hunger Coalition, and other anti-hunger organizations statewide, an additional $2 million in the California state budget will enable public schools to start or expand after-the-bell breakfast programs.

San Diego Hunger Coalition’s Robin McNulty provided testimony to advocate for expanding Breakfast After the Bell statewide and has written a case study on the program’s past success at Lemon Grove Elementary School. This proven impact helped encourage Escondido to roll out breakfast in the classroom.

Breakfast After the Bell models see a substantial increase in student attendance, positive academic performance, less student tardiness and visits to the health office.

The state government will provide grants of up to $15,000 per school site, with priority given to high poverty schools. This funding is a huge win for ending hunger in the classroom.

For more information on these state funded grants click here or contact Paloma Perez Bertrand.

Celebrating 2016 Victories for Hunger Relief

In 2016, the Hunger Advocacy Network channeled expertise and support from member organizations to support important State legislation. From direct lobbying to education, we helped secure success for key bills and budget asks to ensure that all people in San Diego have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.  With advocacy, we can influence public policies, programs and funding to help more people access the food they need. After reading about last year’s successes, we hope you’ll sign up to become an Advocate for a Hunger Free San Diego.

Together, we leveraged our collective voices to achieve the following success for our community:

  • Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit – This initiative will extend and increase incentives to allow for donations of fresh produce to food banks throughout the state.
  • Food Assistance for Higher Education – Establishes the Public Higher Education Pantry Assistance Program for supporting an on-campus food pantry and hunger relief efforts for low-income students.
  • Breakfast After the Bell - $2 million in funding to expand access and participation in the school breakfast program.
  • Nutrition Incentives Funding - $5 million in State funding - that will be matched by Federal funding - to strengthen the Market Match program that makes fresh fruit and vegetables more affordable for low-income families.

With advocacy, we can influence public policies, programs and funding to help more people access the food they need. While we celebrate the important successes of 2016, we must proactively expanding our reach and partnerships to protect the gains we’ve made.

Ending Student Hunger with Second Chance Breakfast


A successful day at school starts with nutrition. Unfortunately, the one in four children who arrive to school without having eaten breakfast are missing out on the fuel they need to concentrate and learn. There’s good news in San Diego: local schools that have implemented Breakfast After the Bell have seen a more than 200 percent increase in the number of students who participate in breakfast programs. 

How collaboration helped more students start the day with nutrition

Over the past year, San Diego Hunger Coalition has been a designated mentor to the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) to help implement alternate school breakfast programs. We provide technical assistance including site visits and remote consulting for the school district.  

Data on breakfast participation and interviews with students revealed that traditional breakfast models (served before school starts) had only increased student participation by two percent. The SDUSD team and Robin McNulty, our Director of School Meals Programs, recommended a Breakfast After the Bell model called Second Chance Breakfast, or “Grab n’ Go,” for middle schools. As the name implies, students eat breakfast during a break in the morning, usually between first and second periods. The food items are offered from mobile carts located in high traffic areas where there are many students.

From June 2015 to September 2016, the San Diego Unified School District targeted 20 middle schools to implement food carts as an alternative to the school breakfast served in the cafeteria. They have seen significant increases in breakfast participation at three middle schools and two high schools. One middle school, Wilson Middle, had an incredible increase of 260 percent in breakfast participation – going from only 60 breakfasts served in September 2015 to 495 breakfasts served in June 2016.

We are proud of the progress San Diego Unified School District has made in serving more children breakfast, and excited to show how Breakfast After the Bell can have a tremendous impact on students’ ability to succeed in school.

Hunger Coalition selected to partner with San Diego Unified School District on Grab n’ Go breakfast implementation

Hunger Coalition selected to partner with San Diego Unified School District on Grab n’ Go breakfast implementation

Hunger Coalition has been recruited by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) to work in partnership with San Diego Unified School District on an AASA-funded national project to implement the “grab n’ go” breakfast at low-income middle schools.

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