Special Blog Post By: Cindy McCown, Second Harvest Food Bank Vice President of Community Engagement and Policy


Second Harvest Food Bank is committed to working with policy makers, school administration, food service staff, teachers, parents, and students to increase local participation in the Federal School Breakfast Program (SBP).  We see this as a vital meal program to address childhood hunger and help every child reach their full academic potential.

Millions of low-income children have benefitted from the School Breakfast Program that launched as a pilot program established by the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. In the inaugural year, the average daily participation was 80,000 meals which has grown to an average of 14,900,000 breakfasts last year!

It has been well documented that students who have breakfast are better equipped for academic success.   If a child’s stomach is growling from hunger, it is hard to focusing on learning.  A report from the Food Research & Action Center and the National Association of Secondary School Principals found that students who have breakfast:

  • Exhibit improved cognitive function
  • Perform better on standardized tests
  • Show decreased tardiness, absenteeism
  • Have fewer behavioral issues

Principals reported:

  • 82% increased school breakfast participation
  • 66% fewer occurrences of student hunger
  • 47% improved student attentiveness
  • 33% fewer tardy students

In Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, approximately 35% of low-income students are reached by school breakfast.  The School Breakfast Program has changed over the years, the traditional model is providing breakfast in the cafeteria before school but there are alternative service models that have been proven to increase access. One of the most significant ways to increase participation is to make breakfast part of the school day.  Some of the best in class alternative breakfast models include: Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab n’ Go, and Second Chance Breakfast.

Earlier this year, Second Harvest Food Bank and other anti-hunger organizations worked with policy makers to make investments for schools expanding to offer alternative breakfast models.  We were successful in securing new funds in the 2016-17 California budget.  In early 2017, breakfast after the bell grant opportunities for these alternative models will be available to schools through the California Office of Education.  Check with your local school district to see if these alternative breakfast models could be an option for them.

We should all be concerned about the short and long-term impacts that hunger can have on the outcomes of children.  Join Second Harvest Food Bank in working towards a hunger-free community where all children have access to nutritious food.

Learn more about USDA School Breakfast Expansion Strategies here and read more about the history and policies behind the School Breakfast Program in a new report by WhyHunger here.