Horton Elementary School honored for breakfast program

School receives USDA award

SAN DIEGO - A local school was recognized Thursday for helping create a healthier environment for their students.

Horton Elementary School was the only school in the San Diego Unified School District to receive the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge Award.

The school was honored for, among other things, serving breakfast to children whose families struggle to put food on the table.

Anita Alcaraz teaches her kindergarten class about the most important meal of the day. She said there were a lot of hungry stomachs when she started teaching at Horton Elementary 18 years ago.

"They were hungry; a lot of the kids were hungry. By about 10 a.m. they'd say, 'Ms. Alcaraz, send me to the nurse, my stomach hurts.' I would send them to the nurse and the nurse would give them something to eat and then they would be back to class ready to start … I'm one of those kids," Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz grew up in the same neighborhood and had the same needs. Now, thanks to breakfast in the classroom, students have two healthy meals a day at no cost.

It's not quite a free breakfast, but many of the students are able to eat because of a federal program funded by taxpayers. The program provides free meals to low-income families, with an average cost per meal at about $2.

According to a UC San Diego study, test scores have improved by 10 to 15 percent because students come in time to eat, don't have to sneak a snack from the nurse and are eager to learn from teachers like Alcaraz.

"They deserve to have everything in life that they need to be healthy and to believe in themselves and just to flourish," said Alcaraz.

The program has been in place for three years and it focuses on overall health, including exercise.

Horton Elementary will receive $500 because of the award.

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