- Author: Chutima Ganthavorn
- Editor: Andra Nicoli
- Contributor: Marlyn Pulido
- Contributor: Jackie Barahona
UC-led partnership resulted in a successful “Breakfast on the Playground” campaign for Coachella Valley Unified Child Nutrition Services, increasing school breakfast participation at Cesar Chavez Elementary from 29% to 50% of student population.
Cesar Chavez Elementary School located in Eastern Coachella Valley is a school with high needs facing several challenges including high poverty, food insecurity, and childhood obesity. According to Lift to Rise's Neighborhood Data for Social Change, almost one in five of the residents live below 100% of federal poverty level in 2017. The percentage of free or reduced price meals at this school is 87%, and 37% of students fall in the overweight/obese category.
How UC Delivers
To champion student health and wellness, CalFresh Healthy Living at University of California (CFHL, UC) has been a strong partner with the instrumental Cesar Chavez Elementary School Wellness Committee. Formed six years ago under the direction of former Principal Robert Hughes and chaired by Dr. Megan Greene, the school wellness committee contributed to the Coachella Valley Unified School District Wellness Policy. CFHL, UC started the school's partnership with FIND Food Bank which led to regular food distributions to students and the school community last year. At one of the school wellness committee meetings early in 2018-2019 school year, the Coachella Valley Unified (CVUSD) Child Nutrition Services Director Marcus Alonzo announced that the District had received a USDA grant to implement school breakfast at ten school sites. All of the schools in CVUSD have more than 50% students receiving free/reduced price meals and are qualified for SNAP Education. The grant also provided funding for program promotion and Alonzo sought assistance to complete this objective before the end of the school year.
In response, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources News and Outreach in Spanish (UC ANR NOS) with Director Ricardo Vela proposed a marketing campaign that involves ten 30-second videos, nine radio spots in two radio stations, and a two-minute interview that runs in the Univision's morning show called Despierta Palm Springs every day for a month. UC ANR NOS also produced 12 videos to be posted two each week on Facebook by Univision, one of which can be found here: Breakfast on the Playground video.
The campaign aimed to promote the new “Breakfast on the Playground” carts that were implemented at ten school sites. The video production highlighted CFHL, UC educators Marlyn Pulido and Jackie Barahona, food service staff, teachers, and students from Cesar Chavez and Saul Martinez elementary schools. The key messages were to increase awareness about the importance of eating breakfast and to encourage students to participate in school breakfast. CVUSD Child Nutrition Services Department was interviewed by a local broadcasting station about the campaign and the interview ran during the local morning news. Social media coverage was targeted by zip codes surrounding the ten schools. No Kid Hungry, a part of the nonprofit organization known as Share Our Strength, later joined in and supported two Twitter and Facebook ads featuring videos produced by UC ANR NOS.
"I see that the children who participate in the breakfast program pay more attention during class."
- Mr. Lomeli, 4th Grade teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary
Twitter reported 94,363 video views for the two ads run in March 2019, two weeks each. Facebook had a larger number of reach. Through the four-week campaign via Facebook, the videos reached more than 200,000 people and had an engagement of 55,000 people among males and females ages 25-45 years. CFHL, UC estimated that at least 50% of student population or 465 students at Cesar Chavez were reached by the "Breakfast on the Playground" campaign. Breakfast participation at Cesar Chavez increased from about 29% to 50% of student population. Dora Juarez, the Principal at Cesar Chavez Elementary, was recognized for going above and beyond to make school breakfast possible for kids in need and inducted into No Kid Hungry's 2019 School Breakfast Hall of Fame.
During 2018-2019 school year, Cesar Chavez enrolled 141 students from seven kindergarten to third grade classes in CFHL, UC nutrition education. All of the participating teachers either strongly agreed or agreed that more students can identify healthy food choices and are more willing to try new foods at school. Fear of trying new foods has been associated with lower intake of fruits and vegetables in children. In addition, research studies have shown that eating breakfast is associated with improved student concentration and school performance. This project highlights how partnership between UC ANR programs and school food service improves health for all as well as improves food security among students, contributing to the public values of promoting healthy people and communities and safeguarding sufficient, safe, and healthy food for all Californians.