Advocacy initiatives expand school breakfast, SNAP programs

For Julian, an 8th-grader at Hillside School, eating breakfast in the morning just makes sense.

“If you have breakfast, your mind is much more active and aware. It really gets you through the day,” he said.

Nearly 400 students each day receive free or reduced-price breakfast at Hillside. Assistant Principal Jennifer McGuire knows how important the program is.

“Eating breakfast is an important part of the day,” she said. “We want to get students off to a great start, and part of that is making sure they’re getting the nutrition they need.”

In Illinois, more than 1.1 million children are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast, yet only 387,000 actually receive breakfast each day.

But that’s about to change.

Thanks to a group of statewide advocates, including hundreds from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, access to school breakfast programs will be expanded to an additional 175,000 children in Illinois by implementing alternative school breakfast models.


“Children need proper nutrition to start their day off right and to excel in school. Alternative school breakfast models will provide that opportunity for students.”

Nicole Robinson, Food Depository vice president of community impact

In May, advocates from the Food Depository and other Illinois organizations visited lawmakers in Springfield during Lobby Day to encourage them to support the bill, which then passed through the House and Senate with bipartisan support and was signed in August by Governor Bruce Rauner. The law takes effect January 1, 2017.



Children were not the only focus of the Food Depository’s advocacy efforts in fiscal year 2015-2016.

In January, a new law took effect that enabled 40,000 previously ineligible low-income households to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The law assists families who were making slightly too much to qualify for SNAP but were still struggling to make ends meet each month. The bill was signed in July 2015 after advocates visited the Capitol in May of last year.

The Food Depository also took more than 30 advocates to Washington, D.C. to attend the Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in early March. The conference included information on advocacy best practices and concluded with visits to federal lawmakers.

Want to learn more about the Food Depository’s advocacy work? Visit