National School Breakfast Week takes place during the first full week in March to raise awareness about one of the largest welfare programs of the U.S. Government. Experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day — and the federal government agrees. Ever since its inception in 1966, the School Breakfast Program has served billions of free and nutritious meals to students from all economic backgrounds. Throughout the week, teachers organize exciting contests, and the school cafeterias are adorned with special menus and decorations to mark the inception of this great welfare program.
History of National School Breakfast Week
The link between academic excellence and healthy eating cannot be overstated. Consistent nutritious meals are critical to a child’s overall mental and physical growth. No matter how far the field of knowledge stretches its hands, a hungry child can never run into its embrace. This plight was first noticed by Kentucky Congressman Carl Perkins, who was worried about children making their way to school on an empty stomach. Motivated by his desire to change the circumstances of millions of students, he proposed a radical idea of serving free breakfasts to school-going children from low-income families.
After months of pushback, Congress finally launched a two-year pilot project known as the School Breakfast Program in 1966. The School Breakfast Program provided the option of a balanced meal, consistent with the standard dietary regulations for students from all economic backgrounds. In the mid-1970s, Congress kept extending the program to further understand its effect on students hailing from low-income families. The program became incredibly popular in the country, and various activist groups such as Food Research & Action Center began lobbying for the permanent adoption of the program, which happened in 1975.
The program’s continuous expansion and eventual permanence resonated its importance throughout the country. Today, more than 90,000 schools participate in the School Breakfast Program. On an average day, 14.5 million students are served with fresh and nutritious breakfast as they head to their classes.
National School Breakfast Week was adopted in 1989 to raise awareness about the immense success of the program, and the steps that we need to take to expand it further.
National School Breakfast Week timeline
A two-year School Breakfast project, enacted by the Child Nutrition Act, is established by Congress to serve nutritious breakfast to school-going children.
Congress continues to extend the program, incorporates lunches, and expands it to more schools in the country.
Congress formally adopts the School Breakfast Program after the concerted efforts of many activists and organizations such as the Food Research & Action Center.
The Food Research & Action Center launches School Breakfast Week after the enactment of Child Nutrition Amendments to raise further awareness about the program.
National School Breakfast Week FAQs
Who qualifies for the School Breakfast Program?
The School Breakfast Program is means-tested. Households with income below or at par with the 130% federal Poverty level can avail themselves of free breakfast and lunches. Families with income between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are also eligible for meals at a deducted price.
What does a School Breakfast meal consist of?
The School Breakfast Program follows the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines of America. The meals are served in a rotation of fruits, whole grains, and meats/vegan substitutes. Special attention is paid to limiting sodium, trans fat, and calories in each serving, and the meals must be prepared by local school food authorities.
Is the Black Panther Party behind the School Breakfast Program?
The timeline of the School Breakfast Program intersects with Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast program. Although the FBI dismantled the efforts of the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program, the government took heed of the popularity of the program and moved to the permanence of SBP in the mid-1970s.
How to Observe School Breakfast Week
Donate to charities fighting hunger
Many organizations are leading the fight against hunger in the U.S. While the School Breakfast Program covers children in school, there are tons of impoverished children and young adults outside of the formal system who deserve our support.
Volunteer at a food bank
There is no better way to mark the success of the School Breakfast Program than to volunteer at your local food bank. From sorting, packing, and assisting, to deliveries — food banks are always in need of help. Week-long participation will earn you many good karma points.
Spread the message
Many members of your community must be benefiting from the School Breakfast Program without knowing the challenging history behind it. In the second week of March, let’s spread the story of the origin of this endeavor and the organizations such as the No Kid Hungry, and Food & Action Center, who played a key role in the successful implementation of the program.
5 Facts That Support The Success Of The School Breakfast Program
From a molehill to a mountain
From the enrollment of just 6,600 schools in 1971, the School Breakfast Program has now reached 90,000 schools.
The last decade has seen a tremendous growth of S.B.P, with five million new admissions of low-income families.
On an average school day in 2019, 14.6 million students were served fresh and nutritious breakfast meals.
Better diet, better child
Students who participate in the School Breakfast Program show an improvement in retention, verbal fluency, memory, physical endurance, and cognitive functioning.
The success of S.B.P. has launched many sister programs such as Grab N’ Go, Second Chance Breakfast, Breakfast in the Classroom, and Breakfast Vending.
Why National School Breakfast Week is Important
It shares the success story
The week-long observation sheds light on the activism that led to the establishment and implementation of the School Breakfast Program. Back in the era of McCarthyism, when every federal program was accused of being a socialist fantasy, winning bipartisan support for the launch of S.B.P. was a big deal, and it remains so, as the program completes 50 years of uninterrupted service to every child in need.
It continues to expand
From gaining private funding partners in the Walmart Foundation to the passage of critical legislation in the states of New Mexico and Oregon, the School Breakfast Program is continuously expanding its reach to eliminate all logistical obstacles that stand in the way of hungry stomachs and federal assistance.
It addresses the challenges
The existence of the program is not enough to feed the children. Although it expands to over 90,000 schools nationwide, only half of the entire low-income children can benefit from the program. National School Breakfast Day raises awareness about the immense challenges that lie ahead, as the government aims to provide free breakfast to every child in need.
National School Breakfast Week dates