Gov. Wolf Unveils $21.5M Plan to Provide Universal Free School Breakfast

breakfast programGovernor Tom Wolf announced his $21.5 million plan to provide universal free school breakfast for 1.7 million students across the commonwealth this school year in Steelton, PA. (Credit: Commonwealth Media Services)

PENNSYLVANIA — On Friday, Governor Tom Wolf announced his $21.5 million plan to provide universal free school breakfast for 1.7 million students across the commonwealth this school year. The program, which will be funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, will give all students enrolled in public or private schools the opportunity to participate. breakfasts will be available at no cost to families regardless of their income level.  “It is completely unacceptable for a child to start the day hungry,” said Gov. Wolf.

The Universal Free Breakfast Program will start on October 1, 2022, and go until the end of the school year in 2022-23. 1.7 million children in Pennsylvania who are enrolled in public schools, intermediate units, charter schools, career and technology schools, and childcare institutions will get food from this state-funded program. The program costs $21.5 million and it is funded by the School Food Services General Fund appropriation from last year. Schools that don’t currently participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs can find information on how to apply on the Department of Education’s website.

“We commend Gov. Wolf and the Administration for their dedication to a hunger-free Pennsylvania. Universal free school breakfast across Pennsylvania helps to ensure every student will start their day with a healthy, nutritious meal,” said School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania Communications Chair Melissa Froehlich. “Research supports that a well-nourished child who starts the day with breakfast is more likely to be at school, has improved concentration and is more willing to participate in the classroom. Universal free breakfast for all students in Pennsylvania will strengthen child nutrition programs and address equity and stigma around school breakfast so that more children will have access to nutritious meals and set our students up for success in the classroom.”

From March 2020 through the 2021-22 school year, students were afforded free meals from school as a result of waivers approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For two years, nearly 1 million students have eaten for free each year. Comparing the 2018-19 school year, when free breakfast was not universal, to 2021-22, when school was fully in-person and breakfast was universally free, breakfast consumption increased by nearly 16%. That is 16% of Pennsylvania children that would start their day hungry this year—and that is a number that Gov. Wolf would not accept.

“As a parent and grandparent myself, I know that there is nothing more important than our kids,” added Gov. Wolf. “This investment in free school breakfast for all is an investment in a better, healthier, happier life for our kids now and in the years to come.”

Senator Lindsey Williams, Senate Educate Committee Chair and advocate for childhood nutrition, commended Gov. Wolf’s Universal School Breakfast Program.

“It takes a village to tackle an issue as important and impactful as food security for our children. Keeping students fed, nourished, and ready to learn is vital to their health and education,” said Sen. Williams. “These investments in school meals relieve the pressure on our families as grocery prices rise and ensure that all students can access nutritious food without shame or stigma. I’m grateful for all of the work being done to keep students from going hungry.”

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