Kids eating breakfast

School Breakfast Heroes Fueling Kids to Reach their Full Potential

Breakfast is an energy source for kids, but 1 in 7 kids in America lives with hunger and may start the school day on an empty stomach. No Kid Hungry’s School Breakfast hero award celebrates individuals who are changing that. 

By using their voices to build awareness, enact smart policies, raise critical funds and implement breakfast after the bell programs in schools, these heroes are helping to ensure that all kids in America are fueled to reach their full potential.

We’re excited to introduce you to this year’s inspiring line up of champions. They come from all walks of life, proof that ending childhood hunger takes all of us. Whether they spend their days speaking on the statehouse floor, preparing gourmet cakes and pies or serving up healthy school meals – each is using a unique talent to make sure kids start the day with a healthy meal. 

  • Los Angeles Chef Valerie Gordon, Valerie Confections

By day, Valerie shapes delicious chocolates and sweet treats – but she’s also shaping policy.   Last spring, Valerie joined No Kid Hungry in Sacramento to ask California lawmakers to approve funding in the state budget for breakfast after the bell. Sure enough when the budget passed in June, it included $500,000 to reinstate breakfast after the bell grants that will support dozens of school districts. In addition to using her voice to promote strong policy solutions, Valerie has been instrumental to No Kid Hungry’s fundraising and awareness efforts by helping engage chefs and entrepreneurs in Taste of the Nation events. In June, she’ll hop on her bicycle and ride 300 miles for Chef Cycle, raising funds and awareness to ensure all kids in America can start each day with breakfast. 

  • Massachusetts Rep. Aaron Vega, Rep. Andy Vargas and Sen. Sal DiDomenico

Smart legislation is one of the most effective ways to reach more kids with school breakfast – and it’s one that takes bold leadership. Led by Senator Sal DiDomenico in the Senate and Representatives Aaron Vega and Andy Vargas in the House of Representatives, breakfast after the bell legislation recently passed unanimously in both chambers of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Once enacted, this legislation will increase access to school breakfast to over 150,000 low-income students across the commonwealth by making it a part of the school day.

  • Abby Favela, youth ambassador with Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Abby is a passionate young leader who has already begun to distinguish herself as an advocate working to end child hunger. As a No Kid Hungry youth ambassador, she’s working with Hunger Task Force to make sure kids in Milwaukee are fueled and ready to learn. Her outreach efforts for this year’s Wisconsin School Breakfast Challenge have helped boost enrollment by over 200%, with nearly 200 schools now signed up to see who can reach the most students with breakfast. Abby’s work doesn’t stop there: She recently put out a one-pager on culturally appropriate school meals and published an article on equity in Hunger Task Force’s 2020 School Meals Report Card.

  • Stephanie Slingerland, Director of Philanthropy & Social Impact, Kellogg Company

One of No Kid Hungry’s national breakfast sponsors, Kellogg Company has raised more than $4.5 million since the launch of the partnership in 2013. Stephanie has grown the partnership year over year, spearheading numerous promotions, campaigns and events that have raised critical awareness and funding that enable No Kid Hungry to connect thousands of children with school breakfast each day. On top of the national work she’s made possible, Stephanie is a strong champion for school breakfast in her own back yard, helping to get all schools in Battle Creek, Michigan up and running with strong school breakfast programs.

  • Mikhail Cherniske, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

Since joining OSPI in 2018 to support implementation of the Washington Kid Ready to Learn Act, Mikhail has been a steadfast champion for the School Breakfast Program and breakfast after the bell. He goes above and beyond to encourage schools and school districts to implement robust breakfast after the bell models, regularly connecting schools with the resources and technical assistance they need to implement an sustainable breakfast programs that increase access for all students. Implementing statewide systems change is not an easy feat, yet everyday Mikhail demonstrates his commitment to ensuring all Washington students have access to the nutrition they need to reach their full potential.

  • Erika Phillips & Mandy Kenner, Hawkins County School District, Tennessee

When Coordinated School Health Director Erika Phillips saw the data on how many students in Hawkins County were missing breakfast each morning, she was determined to find a way to implement breakfast after the bell district wide. She joined forces with Child Nutrition Director Mandy Kenner to gain the support of district leaders and get input from each principal on which model would work best in their school. In October, Hawkins County began serving breakfast after the bell at all 18 schools and credit flexibility and teamwork for the successful district-wide implementation. Educators say grab and go breakfast has been a great leadership opportunity for their students and school nurses reported fewer morning visits thanks to the new opportunity to grab breakfast between classes.

Want to meet more incredible people making a difference for kids across America? Meet the 2020 inductees to No Kid Hungry’s School Breakfast Hall of Fame.