Original Proposal

Please see below for San Diego Hunger Coalition’s application for San Diego Regional Data Library’s Data Grant.

San Diego Hunger Coalition (SDHC) leads coordinated action to end hunger in San Diego County, supported by research, education and advocacy. Our goal is a Hunger Free San Diego, where anyone faced with hunger can readily access adequate food assistance to see them safely through their time of need.

Specifically, SDHC provides leadership, research, training, and advocacy for community-based organizations, school districts, healthcare providers, and government agencies across San Diego County and the State of California to achieve the following goals:
Build a more effective and interconnected system of food assistance resources.
Enable low-income individuals and families to purchase more healthy food by increasing participation in CalFresh, a monthly supplement to a household’s food budget.
Ensure all children have year-round access to healthy food by expanding school meals and other federal child nutrition programs.

For more information on each of our programs, please visit our website:

In 2018, SDHC released Hunger Free Kids: Opportunities by District to End Child Hunger, based on over a year of research to identify current utilization of federally-funded child nutrition programs (by both school districts and nonprofits) and school-based charitable food distributions within each school district. This is the first report in the nation to analyze utilization of ALL child hunger programs and break down the data by district. The report also includes detailed analysis of opportunities in each district. This report is available for download at

Of the five strategies to end child hunger highlighted in this report, SDHC seeks support to further research the implications and effects of two of the most promising solutions: Breakfast After the Bell and Universal Free Meals. These school meal best practices mean more meals for kids, more money for schools and, most importantly, provide ALL students with the opportunity to begin their day with a nutritious start. However, because of a lack of information and local data, as well as tight budgets and lack of time for researching and implementing new programs, many school districts are not taking full advantage of these best-practice strategies. In order to better understand the impact on San Diego County schools that have implemented these strategies, we propose the following two (multipart) questions:

What is the effect of implementing Universal Free Meals on the following:
Meal participation
Student absenteeism
Academic performance (ELA, math test scores)

What is the effect of implementing Breakfast After the Bell on the following:
Meal participation
Student absenteeism
Academic performance (ELA, math test scores)
Understanding the local impact of these meal programs on meal participation, reimbursement, student absenteeism, and academic performance will assist us with convincing key stakeholders of the benefits of these strategies, as well as allow us to better tailor our technical assistance for school districts. Comprehensive answers to these questions will also provide us with additional leverage in stewarding philanthropic dollars to support schools seeking to implement the meal programs in question. Exploring the relationship between Universal Free Meals and Breakfast After the Bell and higher participation and reimbursement, or even a better understanding of what factors make positive results more likely, will help us to advise schools and school districts. A link between these meal programs and improved student attendance and test scores would be even more compelling for school districts that are being held accountable to improve these measures through the California School Dashboard, a statewide accountability system with the attention of all administrators.

Most of the data needed for this project is already available:

Annually, the California Department of Education (CDE) releases a list of schools that are participating in Universal Free Meals (Provision 2 and Community Eligibility Provision), as well as schools that are eligible.
SDHC has school-level monthly data for years 2014-2018 on how many free, reduced price, and paid meals were served at each school, and school enrollment and free and reduced price meal enrollment for all schools in San Diego County. From this, we can calculate meal participation.
SDHC has collected reimbursement rates for meals from 2010-2018.
California School Dashboard data for 2018 is available for download from CDE.

The data needed includes:

Annual data on which schools are serving Breakfast After the Bell; and
Prior years’ data of academic performance and absenteeism. California School Dashboard data for 2018 is available but for previous years, academic performance measures may or may not be comparable. Absenteeism data may be problematic for previous years.
The Hunger Coalition’s research is led by Heidi Gjertsen, PhD, and supported by an intern. The research team is skilled in Excel, Tableau, and statistical analysis, but has limited capacity to take on the initial data collection and wrangling needed to begin a project of this scope, but is eager to continue the data analysis that the structure provided by San Diego Regional Data Library will provide for us in years to come.

This project will truly be foundational in our efforts to increase access to effective meal programs that can reach every child. The full SDHC team is eager to continue this work as this data will support our mission and encourage stakeholders beyond the hunger relief sector to engage in the important work of providing free, nutritious meals to students. We already know, through our exhaustive research forHunger Free Kids, that an additional 74 high poverty schools could be serving breakfast and lunch at no charge to 55,000 kids. Research also shows that food insecurity amongst children can result in poor health outcomes, delayed physical and cognitive development, and behavioral issues. By backing up the importance of strategies such as Universal Free Meals and Breakfast in the Classroom, and thus increasing buy-in by school districts and school authorities, we can provide our children with their best shot at success.

Thank you so much for your consideration.

Kelly Wilkinson

Kelly Wilkinson
Operations Manager
San Diego Hunger Coalition

4305 University Avenue, Suite 545
San Diego, CA 92105
Office: 619-501-7917 x 108 | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Download the 2018 Hunger Free Kids Report by clicking here.