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Influence and the Fight for School Breakfast

“No child should be learning on an empty stomach.” Impactful words from the New York Times and another voice adding to the effort to expand breakfast as part of the school day in NYC. The fact is that children can’t learn when they’re hungry. And while school breakfast is free to all, only a fraction of New York City kids are actually getting the healthy breakfast they need, missing out on millions of dollars in federal aid. Urging Mayor Bill DiBlasio to make good on his commitment to fuel New York City’s schoolchildren with a healthy breakfast in the classroom, advocates have been turning up the pressure on this important issue.

The movement to realize this change has been an exercise in intentional influence, and particularly the critical step of understanding who has a stake in the issue and can influence the outcome. We’ve seen success in similar movements when change agents identify:

  • Individuals who can help garner early wins to prove that the work is worthwhile,
  • Individuals who can engage people who are essential to progress, and/or
  • Individuals who can engage a significant number of people


In the case of the campaign to provide in-classroom breakfast to all New York City schoolchildren, Share Our Strength has been a driver of intentional influence, leveraging the criteria above to enlist passionate and powerful stakeholders to act. Unified around a single, simple message, parents, renowned chefs, city leaders, and the media added their voices to a campaign that included a City Hall rally, an online hub for the issue at NYCBreakfast.org and an active social media presence. A number of high-profile celebrities including Pink, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, Amanda Seyfried, and Jeff Bridges rallied their considerable social media networks to implore the Mayor to act on the issue of school breakfast.

Every available resource and tool are being utilized to influence Mayor DiBlasio to keep his commitment and get New York City’s children off to a healthy start each day. In our efforts to understand and leverage influence with intentionality, we can look to this effort as a milestone on the path to successfully solving a significant social problem.

To learn more about intentional influence, please see our Stanford Social Innovation Review blog series.

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Sara Brenner

About Sara Brenner

As President, Sara Brenner leads the firm’s consulting business. Sara helped develop and is implementing the firm’s new strategy to solve social problems at the magnitude they exist, while leading a sales team that grew revenue by more than 45%. Sara oversees the implementation of the new strategy-aligning products, impact measurement, and talent initiatives with a results-based culture to deliver exceptional value to partners. With over 15 years’ experience in consulting for nonprofits, for-profits and the government, Sara worked extensively in the health and human services including at the Advisory Board Company and The Gallup Organization. See Sara’s full bio

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