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.

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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.

#MythbusterMonday - December 2017 Myths Busted!

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We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series dispels misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.  

What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using the hashtag #MythbusterMonday.

In December, we busted the following hunger myths:

December 4

The first Monday of the month we take a look back at the myths busted the previous month. Check out the myths we busted in November 2017. Click here

December 11

#MythBusterMonday "Too many people take advantage of CalFresh/SNAP benefits." False! After unemployment insurance, CalFresh/SNAP is the most responsive federal program available to provide additional assistance during economic downturns. Enrollment expands when the economy weakens and contracts when the economy recovers.

December 18

#MythbusterMonday "Breakfast in the Classroom makes a mess." False! Many teachers and principals say that any mess or trash issues can be overcome with a smart system. Creating roles and opportunities for students to clean up after themselves can make breakfast a simple experience. Click here to read more from No Kid Hungry.
 

December 25

#MythbusterMonday “Government assistance is a waste of money and doesn't accomplish its goals.” False! Poverty rates would likely double without safety net programs like CalFresh/SNAP and add to human suffering. Last year, the safety net lifted 38 million people, including 8 million children, out of poverty. Click here to read more myths about poverty.


Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram

#MythbusterMonday - November 2017 Myths Busted

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We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series dispels misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.  

What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using the hashtag #MythbusterMonday.

In November, we busted the following hunger myths:

November 6

The first Monday of the month we take a look back at the myths busted the previous month. Check out the myths we busted in October 2017. Click here. 

November 13

#MythbusterMonday "I don't know anyone suffering from food insecurity." False! In San Diego County 1 in 6 people don't have enough to eat for an active, healthy life. A staggering 1 in 5 are children. It is likely that we all know someone who may not know where their next meal is coming from. Visit our Hunger in San Diego webpage to learn more. 

November 20

#MythbusterMonday "It’s better for local charities to feed people, not the government." False! Food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens were not designed to do this. Instead, they were created to solve temporary or emergency situations, not systemic problems. Click here and see Myth 2 from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

November 27

#MythbusterMonday "Breakfast in the Classroom places an unnecessary burden on teachers." False! Two out of three educators whose students eat breakfast in the classroom are fans of the program. Teachers find that with clear procedures, breakfast can take less than 15 minutes, has a calming effect and sets a positive learning atmosphere. Click here to read more 'Breakfast in the Classroom' myths from No Kid Hungry

#MythbusterMonday - August 2017 Myths Busted

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We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series dispels misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.  

What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using the hashtag #MythbusterMonday.

In August we busted the following hunger myths:

August 7

The first Monday of the month we take a look back at the myths busted the previous month. Check out the myths we busted in July 2017 here

August 14

#MythbusterMonday Our latest food insecurity data for San Diego County is out! Nearly 1 in 6 people in our region don’t have enough food for an active healthy life. Does this data debunk any #hunger myths you’ve heard? Which ones? Click here to view the latest food insecurity data for San Diego County. 

August 21

#MythbusterMonday “Schools serve junk food for school lunch.” False! Meals served as part of the National School Lunch Program must meet nutrition guidelines based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. School meals must comply with requirements like age-appropriate calorie ranges and sodium limits and must provide less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and contain zero grams trans-fat. Click here and see Myth #3 to learn more from the Poway Unified School District

August 28

#MythbusterMonday “Too many ineligible children are receiving school meals on my tax dollar.” False! There is no evidence that many in-eligible children are receiving free or discounted school meals. In fact, studies suggest that the number of Americans eligible for supplemental food assistance programs like school meals is dramatically underestimated and that these programs are underutilized. 


Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram


Hunger Coalition Leads Successful Advocacy Campaign to Preserve Breakfast in the Classroom for 1,000+ Lemon Grove Students

Our Director of Policy and Advocacy Diane Wilkinson leads an advocacy workshop with parents and community representatives in Lemon Grove.

Our Director of Policy and Advocacy Diane Wilkinson leads an advocacy workshop with parents and community representatives in Lemon Grove.

As the end of the 2017 school year approached, the Lemon Grove School District was evaluating whether to keep serving Breakfast in the Classroom or move back to the traditional model of serving it before the start of the school day. Our partner Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) reached out to us to help engage and train members of the community to advocate for keeping Breakfast in the Classroom as part of their community collaborative with Kaiser, the Lemon Grove HEAL Zone.

So why is protecting breakfast in the classroom important? In San Diego County, one in four children arrive to school without having started their day ready to learn supported by a nutritious meal. By serving breakfast in the classroom students can start their day enjoying a meal with their peers in an educational setting and their parents save time during their morning commutes by not having to drop off their children early before the first bell. Studies show that well-nourished children are better prepared for their academic success, are less tardy, visit the nurse’s office less, and cause fewer disruptions in the classroom.

Our School Meals Program Director Robin McNulty and Director of Policy and Advocacy Diane Wilkinson engaged with parents, students and community health partners and trained them to advocate for keeping breakfast in the classroom. They supplied these supporters with talking points and information on the benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom. They also helped them prepare to make public testimonies to the Lemon Grove School District Governance Board and practiced ways to best convey their commitment to their children.

On May 9th, our training paid-off and parents, students and community health advocates came to the Lemon Grove School District Governance Board Meeting to support Breakfast in the Classroom. Together we were successful in gaining the Governance Board’s approval to keep Breakfast in the Classroom for one more year!

Moving forward we will continue to work with CHIP and the Lemon Grove HEAL Zone to keep breakfast in the classroom. Our recommendations include working together with the teachers and the food service director in the school district who opposed the program to address their concerns and develop strategies to overcome barriers. Some ways this could be done is by convening a school breakfast task force to evaluate the long-term sustainability of Breakfast in the Classroom, identifying Board policy changes, and re-training teachers and students on how to document participation in the program. Additionally, identifying breakfast items students prefer and better District promotion of the benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom will help support this valuable program and feed more children in need.

We're a Proud Partner of the #MarchForScience!

The San Diego Hunger Coalition is proud to partner with the March for Science taking place nationwide and here in San Diego on April 22. We rely on science every day in our work to end hunger in our San Diego County through research and evidence-based programs and policy. Our region is home to nearly 500,000 people who are food insecure, meaning they don’t have enough to eat for an active, healthy life. Of these people, nearly 1/3 are children. Without science, we would not know which populations need food assistance, and what are the most effective ways to reach them.


Ways we use science to fight hunger

  • We use data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey to learn about poverty and federal nutrition program eligibility in San Diego County. Finding out how conditions are changing in our communities helps us to plan and advocate for the needs of people struggling to put food on the table.
     
  • We partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research to analyze their 2014 and 2015 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data to develop the most current and accurate food insecurity rates for San Diego County. In doing so, we can provide an in-depth look at the landscape of hunger and hunger relief services to better understand the types of food assistance available, current gaps and underutilized funding opportunities. 
     
  • We worked to integrate food insecurity screenings into healthcare settings in San Diego County by coordinating Rx for CalFresh pilots across six unique healthcare settings and developing a food security and healthcare curriculum in partnership with UC San Diego School of Medicine. Today, healthcare professionals are better equipped to screen for food insecurity and connect people to CalFresh (California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as “food stamps”), one of our nation’s most effective anti-hunger programs.
     
  • We use data and research provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to better understand food insecurity throughout the nation and the impacts of federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP and WIC.
     
  • We incorporate data in our advocacy work and meetings with policymakers at the state and federal levels to protect government assistance programs like CalFresh and School Meals. In 2016, our Hunger Advocacy Network secured 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. 
     
  • We use data from the California Department of Education to estimate participation rates in school meal programs at every school district in San Diego County. This lets us identify what’s working and innovative opportunities to feed more children like breakfast in the classroom.
     
  • We analyze data from the CalFresh program to find opportunities to support our CalFresh Task Force’s work to increase efficiency and effectiveness so all eligible people in need can enroll in the program.
     
  • We share data and learnings with our partners so they can more effectively fulfill their own missions and serve as many hungry people as possible.

We use science to measure our impact and identify places to course correct when needed. It allows our work to be efficient, grounded, fundable, and ultimately truly effective. Join us in supporting science on April 22 and register for the San Diego #MarchforScience here. Registering allows the march organizers to update the march logistics and programming as well as keep track of overall attendance and collect basic, useful information on who is attending so they can tell the story about this march when it is over.

Join the March for Science San Diego's Facebook event page to get the latest information and resources leading up to and after the march.

Unable to attend the #MarchonScience? Donate to support the costs for day-of-logistics, technology, outreach and operations for the march.  

To directly support the San Diego Hunger Coalition's work to end hunger in San Diego County donate here.

#MythbusterMonday - March 2017 Myths Busted

We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series overturns misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.  

What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using #MythbusterMonday.

In March we busted the following hunger myths:

March 6

#MythbusterMonday "No one can be hungry AND overweight.” False! People living in poverty can’t afford enough food and what they can afford – or what is available in their community – is often unhealthy and processed. See #4.

March 13

#MythbusterMonday "People don’t have enough food because they’re not working.” False! In San Diego County 53% of food insecure adults are employed, with nearly 43% working full-time (defined as 21+ hours/week) Learn more.

March 20

#MythbusterMonday "People receiving emergency food assistance need help because they have too many kids.” False! Most families seeking food assistance consist of 2-3 people, a mom and 1-2 of her kids. Only 3% of households on food assistance have more than 6 members. See #3

March 27

#MythbusterMonday “Federal child nutrition programs & CalFresh drain the system.” False! Youth who have access to food assistance in early childhood have better health outcomes as adults and are more likely be successful in school and employment.


Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook and Twitter - @SDHungerCo. 

New Health Permit Regulations for Meal Sites: What to Know

Photo: " Playground " by dadblunders is licensed under  CC BY 2.0

Photo: "Playground" by dadblunders is licensed under CC BY 2.0

After-school meal programs help ensure kids have adequate energy for homework and active play—and that they won’t go to bed hungry. 

Over the past year, several of our partner organizations struggled to adjust to new health permit regulations and fees, and it has been a barrier to providing meals for kids who need them. 

As we enter 2017, here’s what you need to know to comply with new permitting policies from California’s Department of Education.

  1. Make sure your permits are up-to-date
    To update your health/sanitation and fire/building safety permits, your organization must submit a current permit or a satisfactory report from a recent inspection.
  2. Stay tuned for updated program guidelines
    The California Department of Education is creating a Management Bulletin for program sponsors and health departments to properly administer at-risk meal programs.
  3. You may have to adjust the types of meals you serve  
    Many of our partners have been required to switch to serving pre-packaged, nonperishable foods if they don’t have a commercial-style kitchen to serve hot foods.
  4. Take another look at your budget
    Along with updated regulations come annual permit fees of $200/permit and inspection fees of $284/visit, which place an additional financial burden on anti-hunger organizations. Be sure to factor these new fees into your 2017 budget.

These new changes are part of the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which aims to simplify the transition for providers from summer food service programs to afterschool meals while school is in session. Still, the financial burden from the new permitting and inspection process can make it more difficult for service providers to accomplish their purpose – offering nutritious meals for children at risk of hunger.

Click here for more information to make sure your organization is in compliance with these updated policies, or contact Robin McNulty at robin@sdhunger.org or 619-501-7917.

Ending Student Hunger with Second Chance Breakfast

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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.

What We Can Learn From This Summer’s Meal Programs

Photo courtesy of San Diego Unified School District

Photo courtesy of San Diego Unified School District

During the summer months, thousands of children lose access to an important source of nutrition – school meals. It’s estimated 91,655 children in San Diego County are at risk of going hungry when school is out.

Sites in low-income areas across San Diego County offer free meals during the summer to keep these children from going hungry. Unfortunately, many kids don’t participate due to barriers like:

  • Lack of awareness
  • Difficulty accessing transportation
  • Safety concerns

The Summer School Meals Task Force helps alleviate these barriers to ensure all kids have access to summer meals when school is out. This task force is a leading resource for starting new summer meal sites and improving existing sites, with the goal of increasing participation in summer meals countywide. 

As we look back on this summer, we thank these anti-hunger heroes for their tireless work to get the word out about summer meals sites:

  • Summer Food Service Program sponsors
  • School districts
  • Park and Recreation Departments 
  • County and City Library branches 
  • YMCAs
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Childcare centers
  • County of San Diego HHSA nutrition educators
  • Service locations
  • Community partners
  • Charitable food organizations
  • Elected officials
  • Local businesses

You can see a full list of the Summer Meals Task Force participating organizations here. The final counts for number of meals served and number of service locations will be available in late 2016 from the California Department of Education.  

As we celebrate the progress we made with our partners this summer, we remain committed to overcoming the barriers that keep kids from accessing food when school is out. San Diego Hunger Coalition will also continue work to make good nutrition convenient and affordable in kids’ everyday environments during the school year

Want to get updates on how we’re connecting San Diego children with the nutrition they need? Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Serving Up More Than Food This Summer

PHOTO CREDIT: SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

PHOTO CREDIT: SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

During summer vacation, many kids who rely upon free or reduced price school meals don’t have enough to eat. Sites in low-income areas across San Diego County offer free meals for children at risk of going hungry, but many are hard to access or parents aren’t aware of them. To bring more meals to kids at risk of hunger, many San Diego summer meal sites are combining nutrition with fun, educational and family-friendly activities – everything from magic shows to computer programming classes.

Our Summer Meals Task Force has found that pairing meal sites with existing kid-friendly, educational programs is an incredibly cost effective strategy for increasing awareness and participation. It also helps to remove stigma from the experience, giving kids in low-income areas the chance to enjoy carefree summer learning activities along with their peers. 

The summer meal site at the Casa De Oro library is a shining example of the potential for summer meal sites. Here are just a few of the activities the library provides alongside its summer meal program.

  • Magic shows
  • Board games
  • Summer reading contests
  • Birdhouse painting classes for parents to enjoy while their kids eat and play
  • Video games
  • Dodge ball
  • Special socializing programs for teens
  • Pajama Day
  • Story time for toddlers and preschoolers
  • Different educational activities for each day of the week including
  • Learning about geography and foreign cultures through coloring
  • Computer and coding classes
  • Handwriting and cursive lessons
  • Arts and crafts
  • Lego building

These integrations in a summer meal program not only ensure that kids get enough to eat by removing stigma and increasing awareness and participation, they also build stronger communities, enriched family life and a love of learning amongst children.

Interested in finding a summer meal site? Here are the basics: 

  • All kids 18 years old and younger are eligible for free meals.
  • There is no paperwork required, enrollment, sign up or cost needed to participate.
  • Parents can find the site nearest them in two easy ways:
  1. Send a text message. Text FOOD to 877-877.
  2. Call 2-1-1 San Diego for details. Dial 2-1-1.
  3. Click here to enter your zip code

Spread the Word: How to Access Summer Meals in San Diego

Hunger among children does not take a break when school lets out for the summer. In fact, it becomes more of a problem when kids can’t eat breakfast and lunch at school.  Fortunately, the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals to children in low-income areas to help them continue growing and learning. In 2015, more than 220 San Diego locations offered free meals to kids 18 years old and younger. There is no paperwork, enrollment or cost to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. Parents can find the nearest site in three ways:

  1. Send a text message. Text FOOD to 877-877.
  2. Call 2-1-1 San Diego for details. Dial 2-1-1.
  3. Map it online. Click here to enter your zip code.

You can help ensure that parents know how to access meals for their children as summer approaches:

  • Copy the above information to your agency’s newsletter, social media, or website.
  • Send the above information in an email to your agency’s partners and families.

If you have another idea about how to spread the word, please contact Robin McNulty, San Diego Hunger Coalition’s School Meals Program Director. 

School Meals Program Announcement

The San Diego Hunger Coalition is pleased to announce that our School Meals Program will now be under the leadership of Robin McNulty, MPH, who is an expert in the field of school nutrition and a passionate advocate for children and equitable services to all. 
 
For the past 10 years, Robin served as Director of Nutrition Services for the Lemon Grove School District.  In her new role as School Meals Program Director, Robin will build upon the Hunger Coalition’s recent successes and deep commitment to ensuring children have access to healthy food year-round through school meals and other Federal Child Nutrition Programs. 
 
With 1 in 4 children arriving to school hungry every day in San Diego County, and enough hungry kids to fill Qualcomm Stadium twice over, it is imperative that we fully utilize the options and resources available to give our children their best chance at success. 
 
The Hunger Coalition’s School Meals Program offers hands-on technical assistance to school districts and community-based organizations to implement or increase participation in:

  • Universal Free Meals through Provision 2 for schools where more than 80% qualify for Free & Reduced Price Meals.
  • Breakfast after the Bell, which has been proven to reach many more kids and improve school performance.
  • “Supper” Meals, offered during after-school programs through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • Summer and Intersession Meals, offered when school is not in session.

 
We look forward to the enrichment of our partnerships and encourage you to review Robin’s full bio on our website.  Robin’s first day at the Hunger Coalition will be Tuesday, November 3, 2015, and you may contact her at robin@sdhunger.org or 619-501-7917.