WATCH: San Diego Unified Leads Effort to Fight Summer Hunger

Posted: Monday, June 17th 2019

WATCH: Video en español aqui

When school in San Diego lets out for summer break, we think of the beach, vacation plans, and enjoying longer, warmer days in the sun with friends and family. In general, summer is a time for fun.

For many families, it can also be a time of additional hardship.

Food insecurity is not usually a prominent topic of summer planning, but for thousands of children in our city, it's one of the most important. 

More than 70,000 children in San Diego Unified School District qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the school year. When school ends for the summer, these children lose access to school meals, which many families rely on every weekday. Beyond hunger, lack of access to nutritious meals also often leads to unhealthy eating, fatigue, weight gain and learning loss. This leaves many children unprepared to return to school in the fall.

The Summer Fun Café, administered by San Diego Unified Food and Nutrition Services, works to ensure these children have continued access to nutritious meals. The program provides meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines at no cost to all children 18 years old and younger at sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
To help raise awareness about this important program, San Diego Unified hosted a kickoff barbecue event featuring a large community resource fair, fitness camp, circus performance, prize giveaway, and a free barbecue lunch for all children 18 years old and younger. Parents and guardians also ate for free at the barbecue thanks to funding from sponsors Mission Federal Credit Union and San Diego Honda Dealers.

As part of the annual tradition, over a dozen district and community leaders donned aprons and joined Food and Nutrition Services staff in dishing out the food to hungry patrons. Students and their families had their plates loaded up by Superintendent Cindy Marten, Board of Education President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne and Trustee Michael McQuary, San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery, and uniformed personnel from the San Diego Police Department, SDUSD School Police, and San Diego Fire Department, among others.

Juanita, an Encanto Elementary parent who attended the barbecue with her son, spoke to the importance of this program.

"I am very happy this is here today, especially when you know, parents, we need to get out of our house and get our kids busy," she said. "I really like that the schools have this, have these free meals available. The [food and nutriotion services staff] ladies are very friendly, and it's just a good time for us."


This week's big kickoff was just the first of 36 barbecue events San Diego Unified will be hosting across the city this summer, all of which will be free for children and an accompanying adult.

"These events not only provide fresh, nutritious meals for a lot of folks, but they also allow us to stay connected with our families, and to show our communities that there are resources here for them even when school is out," said Gary Petill, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the district. "It's a great program. You really see the benefit when you come out to the events and talk with the families who participate."
The Summer Fun Café is operating Monday through Friday from June 17 to August 16 at 57 locations throughout San Diego. More information including serving times and locations can be found at


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