At last month’s Hunger Action Summit, an annual forum that sparks conversation and inspires action to end local hunger, speakers addressed what it will take to ensure that the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs has access to the nutritious food they need to succeed academically. Organized by Second Harvest Food Bank and Santa Clara University, the summit is sponsored by Bank of America and Santa Clara University’s Food and Agribusiness Institute, part of the Leavey School of Business, and held at the university’s Locatelli Center.

One in three kids struggles with hunger in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Studies show that kids who don’t get enough nutritious food to eat have a harder time concentrating and doing well in school, which often translates into lower grades and fewer job opportunities.  Making sure kids get enough to eat could help close the academic achievement gap that exists between less-advantaged kids and their wealthier counterparts.

The summit brought together education leaders, anti-hunger advocates, and food policy experts. Celebrated author and educator Chef Ann Cooper, known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” also addressed the crowd, forwarding her mission to make school meals healthier.

The Hunger Index, released during the summit every year, measures the gap between how many meals are needed for residents to eat three meals a day and how many meals they purchased on their own or acquired through federal food-assistance programs such as CalFresh or local organizations like Second Harvest.

S. Andrew Starbird, director of the My Own Business Institute at Santa Clara University and co-creator of the Hunger Index, reported that, despite the soaring economy, the 2014 Hunger Index was virtually unchanged, with a meal gap of 175 million meals in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties compared to 176 million meals in 2013.

Visit the 2016 Hunger Action Summit page on SHFB.org to view the full agenda, access archived livestream of the summit, and download presentations.