The Most Important Meal

School Breakfast Linked to Positive Outcomes

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, and recent studies have confirmed this long-held truth. Schools that participate in the federal School Breakfast Program report better outcomes for:

  • Academic performance: Students who eat school breakfast score higher on math tests.

  • Attendance: Student attendance improves when they provide breakfast to their students through various breakfast programs.

  • Graduation rates: Students who eat breakfast on average attend 1.5 more days of school per year.

  • Behavior: School breakfast reduces disruptive behavior that results in disciplinary actions.

So why aren’t more kids participating in school breakfast?

The truth is that most schools do offer breakfast before classes start. But making a balanced meal available isn’t enough if students can’t get to school in time to enjoy it. That’s why the San Diego Hunger Coalition supports Breakfast After the Bell, a program that give students another chance to get something to eat before the lunch hour.

There are three ways that schools can offer Breakfast After the Bell:


If you know a school in your area that does not serve Breakfast After the Bell and would like to help them start, contact Paloma Perez, Hunger Free Kids Director, at (619) 501-7917 ext. 104 or

Summer Meals Success Story - Hunger Free Kids

                On a sunny Wednesday in mid-July, over 100 kids gather at the Cesar Chavez Community Center in San Ysidro for burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, corn, milk, and juice. There is music, activities, face painting, and a chance to meet and play games with local police officers. Spread out amongst picnic tables, blankets, playgrounds, and benches, families enjoy a beautiful San Diego summer day. Parents love the healthy food and safe environment, and the chance for their kids to do something fun.


                “I’ve lived here for 35 years, this is the first time I’ve come,” says Javier, a father of two girls. Javier’s daughters are enjoying watermelon, low-fat milk, hotdogs, and corn on the cob. “I’ve been financially strapped lately, so BBQs like this are great to give my kids something to do during the summer. I wish there were more activities like this.”

South Bay Union School District (SBUDS) is a member of San Diego Hunger Coalition’s (SDHC) Hunger Free Kids Task Force. The Hunger Free Kids Program provides free technical support and ongoing guidance for schools, districts, and

nonprofits working to end child hunger in San Diego. San Diego Hunger Coalition has worked with SBUSD for nearly two years on SDHC’s initiative to ensure all children have access to wholesome meals each day throughout the year, so that parents like Javier have can bring their kids to safe spaces year-round for free meals and activities.

In 2019, South Bay Union School District received the United States Department of Agriculture’s Turnip the Beet gold award which recognizes outstanding Summer Meal Program sponsors for their work offering high-quality meals that are appetizing, appealing, and nutritious. SBUSD was one of three in California to receive the honor. One of the services provided by SDHC is media and public relations for partners with limited resources. When the Hunger Coalition put out the call for media, KUSI News responded with an on-site interview and news segment.

                “It’s really important to make sure these kids are getting enough healthy food to eat during the summer,” says Ana Castro, Registered Dietitian for South Bay Union School District during an interview with KUSI News, “It’s nice to see kids happy, and see how summer meals take the strain off of families.”

                SBUSD’s Summer Meals Program is focused on bringing people together in a way that resonates with the community. Because the school district serves a lot of Imperial Beach residents who love the outdoors, many of the summer meal sites are in parks or community centers. SBUSD also serves culturally appropriate meals that appeal to kids such as tamales, grilled


cheese sandwiches, burritos, and pizza. Kids love the food, parents love the locations, and participants keep coming back year after year.

                “I brought 35 kids from our summer camp with the help of 15 high school volunteers,” says Yesenia Nuñez with Casa Familiar Youth Center during an interview with San Diego Hunger Coalition. “The kids love the watermelon and corn, and they’re excited about the new playground!”

                A cornerstone of SBUSD’s Summer Meals Program are weekly BBQ’s. SBUSD invites families to a different site every week so that they can reach as many kids as possible. Hosted in partnership with the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, every BBQ includes fun activities such as Zumba, live music, free curated samples of fresh produce, a food distribution provided by Feeding San Diego who is also a Hunger Free Kids Taskforce member and fire and police department meet and greets.


                “Our slogan is to eat smart and play hard, and we really try to emphasize that,” says Manuel Gonzalez, District Manager with San Diego Parks and Recreation, “this partnership is so important, we wouldn’t be able to do it without South Bay Union School District. This is really a manifestation of all of the resources available to the community.”

SDHC has been a long supporter of expanding child nutrition programs in South Bay and in 2018 helped the district with securing a grant to implement Breakfast in the Classroom at Berry and Central Elementary Schools, ensuring more than 500 additional kids don’t miss the most important meal of the day.

Afterschool Meals Through CACFP Help Ensure Low-Income Children Don't go to bed Hungry

Many children’s days don’t end when the last school bell rings. In fact, a report conducted by the Afterschool Alliance found that participation in afterschool programs has consistently increased over the past 10 years, rising by nearly 2 million children in the last five year years alone. The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is one of the most effective defenses in the fight against child hunger, as it provides the funding to serve suppers at eligible afterschool programs. Any program that provides child care and enrichment activities (e.g. tutoring, music lessons, arts and crafts, etc.) after school, on weekends, holidays, or breaks during the school year and operates in an area where 50% of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals is eligible for CACFP.

Our goal is to raise awareness about this program and support our partners on the ground at schools and nonprofits across San Diego County with information, application assistance, grant writing, and administrative review to expand CACFP meal sites in our region.

Through our Hunger Free Kids Task Force, we have been able to connect Feeding San Diego with Vista Community Clinic to expand afterschool meals at the Clinic’s youth-serving Project REACH program at two different locations in Oceanside. At the Libby Lake Community Center, the Clinic’s physicians actively inform parents about the afterschool meals available just upstairs at the Project REACH offices, helping to promote both free meals and enrichment activities available to their children.

Additionally, Feeding San Diego serves as a sponsor to provide CACFP youth meals at North County Lifeline’s Las Casitas and La Escuelita’s Youth Development Clubs. These two sites serve afterschool suppers every weekday, totaling at least 150 meals each week, with the help of meal vendor Top Notch Catering. And because the funding grows as a program grows, their goal to consistently increase the number of meals served is made easily attainable because each meal is reimbursed through the United States Department of Agriculture at its fixed rate, with no devaluation or loss on behalf of the program.

Libby Lake Park, Oceanside, CA

Libby Lake Park, Oceanside, CA

While we are making promising strides with CACFP locally, No Kid Hungry and the School Nutrition Foundation have found a large gap in afterschool meals nationally. There are less than four afterschool suppers served for every hundred school lunches going to kids in need across the country.

Their “Three Meals a Day: A Win-Win-Win” report outlines the great need for afterschool meals:

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CACFP has the means to address these needs through the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program, and yet eligible programs are still not taking advantage of this viable solution. Many afterschool meal sites serve no meals or only a small snack. If they do provide food, it is often paid for out of the program’s general fund or the staff’s own dime, causing the program to miss out on valuable federal meal reimbursements.

Become a champion for youth meals in your area! Visit the Hunger Free Kids Task Force webpage or attend an upcoming meeting for more information. If you know of an afterschool program that may be eligible for CACFP, please contact our Hunger Free Kids Program Director Robin McNulty at

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 for more information.

A Year in Review 2017

As we look back on the past year, we’re motivated by everything we and our more than 100 partners accomplished together to help our fellow San Diego residents access the food assistance resources.

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Now, we’re sharing our favorite 2017 wins with you. Thanks to your support, we:

1. Saved Breakfast in the Classroom for at least one more year for more than 1,000 students in the Lemon Grove School District by providing advocacy training and support to our partners as well as parents and students.

2. Supported the City of Oceanside and Oceanside Unified School District to expand afterschool suppers and Summer Meals in the city thanks to a grant from the National League of Cities, Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) initiative.

3. Helped more than 215 households access food assistance by resolving over 230 technical issues with their CalFresh/SNAP applications.

4. Trained 369 staff, volunteers, and interns from hunger relief and human service agencies to provide CalFresh/SNAP application assistance.

5. Directed more than $326,000 to local nonprofits helping low-income individuals and families apply for CalFresh/SNAP, as a contractor for the state CalFresh Outreach Program.

6. Supported the passage of 4 State hunger relief policies that will help more eligible children and adults enroll in CalFresh and free and reduced-price school meals and broadens the tax credit for donated fresh fruits and vegetables.

The fight to end hunger continues in 2018. Our partners on the ground know how great the need for food assistance is, but the current administration has set its sights on dismantling and weakening CalFresh/SNAP by targeting the program for deep cuts disguised as “entitlement reform.” It will take all of us, raising our voices and telling our stories, to protect and strengthen these programs so that they remain available for the nearly 500,000 food insecure people in San Diego County.

You can get involved in the fight against hunger by signing up to be a Hunger Free Activist, sharing your experience with CalFresh, or making a donation to support our work.

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

Why 1 in 6 People in San Diego County Don't Have Enough to Eat

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A family walks up to the cashier at the grocery store, takes out their wallet to purchase food, and doesn’t have enough to pay for the items on the checkout belt. How did they get here?

It is easy to conclude that this family made poor individual choices and decisions. Perhaps they didn’t budget their money wisely that month. Perhaps they haven’t put in the effort to find a higher-paying job. Perhaps they rely on CalFresh/SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and already used up all their monthly benefits.

The reality of food insecurity in San Diego – and across the nation – is far more complex than individual choice and isolated moments at the checkout line.

Living Wage Jobs

Unless a person sustains themselves entirely on food they grow themselves – something that has become increasingly rare in the United States – they need a source of income. Finding and securing a living wage job is not a simple feat. One needs training, education, work experience, and connections to gain employment.  

In San Diego County, a staggeringly high cost of living and high competition for a limited number of living wage jobs intensifies the challenge. If a San Diegan does not have a basic adult education and lacks work experience, it may take anywhere from three to five to as many as ten years to overcome this barrier. While a person pursues career training or education, they must survive with a limited income. When faced with costs related to career and education, food often becomes a “flexible expense.” One group this often applies to is college students. In 2016, nearly 20% of University of California students reported experiencing very low food security. Facing the rising costs of books, supplies, and tuition, students may skip meals to pay for their education.              

Cost of Food, Time, and Transportation

Food prices (and the relative prices of other necessary goods) impacts whether people experience food insecurity. In San Diego County, the average cost of a meal is $3.23, higher than the national average of $2.94. Further, to shop for and cook food at home requires time, food literacy, and cooking skills. This means that more afforable (and less healthy) prepared food is often the only viable option.  

 Lastly, a person may struggle to make it to the checkout line at all. For residents who live in a “food desert,” the nearest grocery store may be far enough away to necessitate a car ride. The cost of owning, maintaining, and fueling a car can add up. In car-dependent San Diego County, the weight of these costs is particularly heavy.


Federal food assistance programs act as vital safety nets for those experiencing financial hardship. However, these programs are not always available to those who need them. The Federal Poverty Level – the metric that determines eligibility for these programs – is an outdated measure that only captures extreme deprivation.

For example, to be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits, a person must have a household gross monthly income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The 2017 Federal Poverty Level threshold for a family of four is $24,600, so 200% of that level is $49,200. In San Diego County, however, a family of four may need as much as 300‐365% of the Federal Poverty Level (or $73,800 - $89,790) to meet their most basic needs, especially if their children are not yet in school and require childcare.

Further, the structure of federal food assistance is such that as a person gradually rises in income level, attaining more skills and training, they experience sharp cuts in benefits. This “benefits cliff” traps people between ineligible for benefits but not making enough to make ends meet. Lastly, many of those who are eligible for federal food assistance do not receive benefits because of complex eligibility guidelines, excessive paperwork, or lack of awareness.

Household and Individual Characteristics

Many factors outside of individual choice affect whether a person has enough food for an active, healthy life. A person's mental and physical health status may serve as a barrier to food access. This often includes veterans, the elderly, and those living with disabilities, among others. For example, in San Diego County, 49.1% of food insecure adults are disabled. Whether a person has a partner or spouse to supplement income can influence their ability to access food. For example, in San Diego County, 64.6% of low-income single parent households are food insecure.

Persistent Historical Inequality

Perhaps the most enduring root cause of food insecurity in the United States is racial, ethnic, and class-based inequities that span generations. Inequity has been deeply entrenched in policies and practices throughout our history. This inequity has created a divide in the accumulation of wealth (savings, home, or business equity) that historically advantages some populations, while disadvantaging others. Low-income people, people of color, women, single mothers, people with disabilities, etc. are more likely to experience food insecurity because of intergenerational inequality.

For example, over the past 30 years, the average wealth of white families has grown by 84% —1.2 times the rate of growth for the Latino/a population and 3 times the rate of growth for the African American population. This mirrors the reality of food insecurity in San Diego County, where food insecure adults are disproportionately Latino/a. 52.7% of food insecure adults are Latino/a, versus 26.3% that are White.

The Reality of Food Insecurity

In sum, food insecurity is the result of a complex relationship between the ability to acquire and maintain a living wage job, the cost of food, time, and transportation, food assistance policies, and enduring historical inequalities. When we see food insecurity with this lens – not a result of poor individual choices, but a result of a complex array of environmental, social, and historical factors – we are better able to make strides in ensuring that all San Diegans have enough food.

- Authored by Rosa Rada, 2017 Emerson Hunger Fellow


Oceanside kicks-off FREE Summer Meals & Feeds Hundreds of People With Two Community BBQs

Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery fills out a paper plate urging state representatives to adopt anti-hunger policies.

Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery fills out a paper plate urging state representatives to adopt anti-hunger policies.

Hunger doesn’t take a vacation when school meals aren’t available leaving many low-income children to go without regular meals when school lets out for the summer. Summer meals help fill this gap and keep children fed all year long. The City of Oceanside and Oceanside Unified School District kicked off their free summer meals program with two family-friendly barbecue events organized by the San Diego Hunger Coalition. Thanks to these events, which featured a resource fair and fun activities for the children, many families learned about the summer meal program for the first time.  More than 500 meals were distributed to low-income families at each event. 

The barbecues took place on Thursday, June 22nd at Balderrama Park and Thursday, June 29th at Libby Lake Park and were part of a collaborative effort to expand participation at existing out-of-school meal sites and launch new sites in the city funded by a grant written by the San Diego Hunger Coalition with the City of Oceanside resulting in a $20,000 award from the National League of Cities, Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS). A sponsorship from Mission Federal Credit Union helped to feed the parents and adult siblings of the children in attendance so that everyone could enjoy the grilled organic chicken as well as the fresh squash and corn from the Oceanside Unified School District's Nutrition Services garden. Additionally, Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank handed out bags of fresh produce for families to take home.

The event brought families together from different neighborhoods, many crossing through gang-territory to attend. The City of Oceanside has been working to reclaim the parks as spaces for community building in areas that have struggled with gang activity. The threat of violence at these spaces often keeps families from attending summer meal programs.

In addition to food and fun, the barbecues offered families the opportunity to make their voice heard and support anti-hunger policies. San Diego Hunger Coalition provided paper plates with questions about hunger including: “What would happen if your CalFresh benefits were cut?” and “What would you like your elected officials to know about hunger?” The Hunger Coalition collects these paper plate messages at summer meal sites and mails them to San Diego’s representatives to help advocate for federal and state anti-hunger policies that affect local families.

There are more than 220 FREE summer meal sites in San Diego County. To find a summer meal site near you text ‘FOOD’ or ‘COMIDA’ to 877-877 or call 2-1-1. No registration or sign-up is required.

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.

Hunger Advocacy Network Visits Members of Congress in D.C.

The Hunger Advocacy Network and our state-level advocacy partners spoke about protecting    #CalFresh    with    Senator Dianne Feinstein   ’s staff.

The Hunger Advocacy Network and our state-level advocacy partners spoke about protecting #CalFresh with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff.

Members of our team traveled to our nation’s capital to support and protect CalFresh and School Meals in San Diego County at the federal level as part of the 2017 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference held from March 5-7. Our Director of Policy & Advocacy Diane Wilkinson led members of the Hunger Advocacy Network (HAN) including Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank, along with our CalFresh team of Amanda Schultz Brochu and Marcia Garcia, in representing the San Diego region. The Hunger Coalition attends national conferences to connect with others in the field, learn innovative new approaches to their work, and best practices from other communities.

The annual conference provides opportunities for anti-hunger advocates across the nation to network with each other, build relationships with members of Congress, and attend informational sessions on topics ranging from using data to support storytelling to Breakfast-After-The-Bell Programs to immigration and public benefits to the effects of the economy and policy on food insecurity. On the conference’s Lobby Day, Diane and members of HAN met with San Diego’s members of Congress to discuss protecting nutrition and food assistance at the federal level to better serve our local work to end hunger. They met with Representative Scott Peters and his staff, as well as the staffs of Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Juan Vargas, Darrell Issa, and Susan Davis.

This year’s conference addressed the uncertain future of government assistance programs under a new administration. A major discussion point was the danger of block granting food assistance programs. Block grants would provide set funding amounts for these vital programs which can be detrimental in cases when there is an economic downturn or a natural disaster as this form of funding is prohibited from adjusting to cope with changing circumstances. Additional topics addressed were the need to protect the entire safety net (not just access to food), the importance of school meals in the future success of students, and how to work across the aisle to preserve programs that keep Americans fed.

The National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference was co-sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center in cooperation with the National CACFP Forum.

You can view some of our team’s favorite moments and other conference attendee experiences at this year’s National Ant-Hunger Policy Conference by searching the hashtag #hungerpc17 on social media.

Hunger Coalition writes grant with City of Oceanside to expand Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs

Oceanside children will soon have access to more food after school and during the summer thanks to a $20,000 grant awarded to the City of Oceanside by the National League of Cities.

Oceanside children will soon have access to more food after school and during the summer thanks to a $20,000 grant awarded to the City of Oceanside by the National League of Cities.

Oceanside will soon be able to better address child hunger thanks to a $20,000 grant from the National League of Cities. With the CHAMPS grant funding, the Hunger Coalition will partner with the City of Oceanside and Oceanside Unified School District to raise awareness about child hunger and increase participation in the city’s existing out-of-school meal programs, and launch new afterschool and summer meal sites. Thanks to the Coast News for their coverage of this initiative 

The Hunger Coalition will serve as the project manager for the CHAMPS grant and will work closely with the City of Oceanside on the development, implementation and monitoring of progress for this initiative.

An important part of this work will be convening summer meal sites and sponsors to be part of the North County Youth Meals Task Force. This group will work to strengthen relationships and business processes with the City, the school district, school nutrition offices, day care centers and preschools, local government health and human services agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and low-income housing complexes to increase the number of summer meal sites and participation and programming at existing sites. The first meeting of the North County Youth Meals Task Force will be held at the end of April. All North County summer meal sites and sponsors are invited to attend.

North County is often categorized as a wealthy community, but many areas exceed the County’s poverty rate of 13.89%. Oceanside has an overall poverty rate of 14.2% (1 in 7 people below poverty level), but has many neighborhoods where the rate is higher than 20% (1 in 5 people below poverty). Oceanside aligns with current statewide food insecurity rates, whereas 1 in 4 children do not have enough to eat, and 17 of 20 low-income students fall into the summer nutrition gap.

More information on the Hunger Coalition’s work to expand access to youth meals across San Diego County can be found here.

San Diego Hunger Coalition’s 2017 San Diego Summer Meals Task Force began meeting in March. They meet every month through September. For more information about the San Diego or North County meetings, please contact Robin McNulty at

#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. 

Bringing Breakfast to the Classroom

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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.

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 or 619-501-7917.

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.

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.