In San Diego County, more than 1 in 5 children are estimated to live in households that cannot provide enough food at all times for an active, healthy life. In addition to affecting their physical and cognitive development, hunger affects children’s ability to concentrate and learn. Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success, so it is critical to the future of our region that we address child hunger today.  

Eligible children may receive free or reduced price school meals to help them succeed in school. To find out if your family qualifies for help and to apply, visit or your school district's website.

On November 1, we partnered with Alliance Healthcare Foundation to host a special convening of experts in child nutrition, hunger relief, and policy solutions to preview our soon-to-be-released report - Hunger Free Kids: Opportunities by District to End Child Hunger. This report is the first to analyze our region’s implementation of federally-funded child nutrition programs by both school districts and community-based organizations. The full report will be released in January.

School Meals, Afterschool Supper, and Summer Meals  

The San Diego Hunger Coalition believes that school meal programs are one of the most effective tools available to eliminate child hunger.  Many low-income children depend on school meals as their primary food source Monday through Friday.  The National School Meals Program provides federal funds to schools to offer robust programs for breakfast, lunch, and after-school snack meals.  However, school districts frequently do not have the time or expertise to pursue all of the funds available and to enroll all eligible students in free and reduced price meals programs.       

The Hunger Coalition works with schools and child development programs to make good nutrition convenient and affordable in kids’ everyday environments. We focus on four main areas:  

  • School Breakfast Program We work with schools and districts to make nutritious breakfast part of the school day, ensuring that children begin the day ready to learn.  
  • Universal Free Meals.  Schools with more than 80% low-income students qualify to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students and receive full federal reimbursement.  We help districts analyze their data, evaluate program options, and provide guidance on conducting program outreach and enrollment. 
  • Afterschool Meals Program.  We connect schools and youth organizations (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs) with resources to provide meals to children when school is not in session, including snacks and supper.   
  • Summer Meals Program. When school lets out for summer, only a fraction of the children who receive free or reduced price meals during the school year participate in summer meals programs. We help schools and youth organizations secure funding and boost participation.    

In 2016, the Hunger Coalition helped launch 24 new sites, feed 2,900 more children, and serve 297,219 meals, bringing in an additional $670,494 for San Diego County.

To date, our efforts have benefited students in the following school districts, communities, and partner programs: Cajon Valley, City Heights – Copley YMCA, Escondido Union Elementary, Feeding San Diego , Heaven’s Windows-Spring Valley and Southeastern San Diego,  Lemon Grove School District, San Diego Unified School District, South Bay Union School District, Sweetwater Union School District, Vista Community Clinic – Project REACH, and Westmoreland Union. Additionally, the Hunger Coalition’s one-time investment of time and resources to develop each new nutrition program benefits thousands of children over the life of the program and results in higher levels of funding for school and organizational food budgets.

Learn more:

Latest School Meals Program Updates