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

#MythbusterMonday - July 2017 Myths Busted

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 July we busted the following hunger myths:

July 3

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 June 2017 here

July 10

#MythbusterMonday “Children of families already receiving SNAP benefits can’t qualify for free summer meals.” False! Free summer meals are open to any youth under the age of 18, no matter what other assistance they may be receiving.

July 17

#MythbusterMonday “People on SNAP eat more junk food than anyone else.” False! According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report less healthy items like soda are one of the top purchases by both SNAP and non-SNAP households. “There were no major differences in the expenditure patterns of SNAP and non-SNAP households, no matter how the data were categorized.”

July 24

#MythbusterMonday “SNAP is a drain on taxpayers.” False! Approximately every $1 spent in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 in economic activity. SNAP is one of the most effective economic stimulus available. Click here and see #3 to learn more. 

July 31

#MythbusterMonday “Summer meal sites are only for young children.” False! All summer meal sites are open & free to EVERYONE under age 18. Teens face the same risks of food insecurity in the summer as young children. 

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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



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 or 619-501-7917.



What We Did on Our Summer Vacation: Understanding summer hunger among children in Southeastern San Diego

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation: Understanding summer hunger among children in Southeastern San Diego

Summer can be a hungry time of the year for children in households that struggle with food insecurity. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also known as the summer meals program, was created in the 1970s to connect children from low-income families to the critical nutrition they need during the summer and intersession breaks.  Unfortunately, only 2 out of 5 kids who benefit from Free and Reduced Priced Meals during the school year are participating in the summer meals program.  An estimated 97,500 are missing out. This summer, the Hunger Coalition set out to test the assumption that lack of program awareness is the major cause of low participation.

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Hunger Coalition Facilitates Summer Meals Task Force

Hunger Coalition Facilitates Summer Meals Task Force

SDHC is the new facilitator of the Summer Meals Task Force, a working group of the County Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP). The group aims to collaboratively understand the issue of summer hunger, devise best practices for summer meal programs throughout the county, and reduce child summer hunger.

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