LAMPa hunger advocates and students can celebrate National School Breakfast Week (March 4-8) with a win and a challenge this year.  In December, universal free school breakfast, which had been implemented during the pandemic, was made permanent with enactment in the Pennsylvania School Code.

For years, LAMPa has been engaged in advocacy to promote school breakfast access in a state that was lagging behind in participation of eligible students. “We’re grateful to legislative champions, Gov. Josh Shapiro and former Gov. Tom Wolf for recognizing the importance of a healthy start to the school day for all children,” LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale. “Our hunger leaders know it has been a long road. Now that funding is in place, Lutheran hunger advocates can still be active in helping their local school districts implement the serving model that works best for hungry students.”

The governor launched a three-month school breakfast challenge in December aimed at helping more students access a free meal and getting administrators across the state to incorporate more nutritious local foods in students’ meals. Challenge criteria and details are on the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, including a breakfast toolkit. Schools with the highest participation levels will be recognized by the governor’s office.

Since the universal free breakfast program was added to the state budget, student participation has doubled, and more than 455,000 free breakfasts are served every day in Pennsylvania schools.  The funding also allows students who qualify for reduced-priced lunches to access free lunches.

According to the PA Department of Education, “numerous studies, including research from Harvard and Tufts universities, have shown a direct correlation between school breakfast participation and academic performance.”

Additionally, a new poll shows that a large majority of Pennsylvanians support expanding the free breakfast program, with 8 out of 10 Pennsylvanians saying they support the addition of free school lunch. The poll was conducted for the School Nutrition Association of PA’s (SNAPA) Universal School Meals PA Coalition.

According to the state director for the child nutrition program of the state Department of Education, Vonda Ramp, Pennsylvania has seen an increase in the number of students qualifying for free lunch, and an increase in participation on top of that, as the stigma is lessened. Prior to the pandemic, 54 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals. By 2022, 60 percent were eligible. As food insecurity across Pennsylvania has continued to increase, Ramp said she expects to see even higher levels of eligibility this school year.

To learn more, you can register here for an online webinar organized by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). The webinar, called “School Breakfast 101: Implementing Innovative Breakfast Models,” will look at how schools are supporting student success through innovative breakfast models.

Let LAMPa know how you are recognizing National School Breakfast Week and combatting food insecurity in your community!

Leave A Comment