Plymouth Meeting, PA – Governor Josh Shapiro and Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin highlighted the importance of providing free and nutritious breakfast to Pennsylvania students in a visit to Colonial Elementary School in Montgomery County.
Governor Shapiro’s first budget proposes $38.5 million to provide universal free breakfast to all Pennsylvania students – regardless of income – through the Free School Breakfast Program and to cover the cost of lunch for 22,000 school students whose families earn less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Since its implementation, the program has served more than 23 million breakfasts to students across the Commonwealth.
“We can’t expect our kids to pay attention in class, learn, and succeed if they haven’t eaten all day – and that’s why I want to give free breakfast to every child in our schools,” said Governor Shapiro. “More than 325,000 children across the Commonwealth – including more than 10,000 kids in Montgomery County alone – were food insecure in 2021. My budget would devote dedicated funding to making universal free breakfast a reality for the first time ever, because our children deserve a safe, healthy learning environment no matter what zip code they live in or how much their parents make.”
The Free School Breakfast Program ensures that all students have access to a healthy, nutritious meal to start the school day and eliminates the stigma associated with free and reduced-price breakfast that may deter eligible students from participating. Many students who come from families who earn just above the income limit still struggle to afford paying for school meals, but the Governor’s proposal would break down those barriers and ensure every student has access to the healthy, nutritious meals they need to learn and grow.
“Research shows that students learn best when they start their day with healthy, nutritious food, but sometimes — due to family budgets or busy schedules — breakfast can be the most difficult meal to come by,” said Acting Secretary of Education Mumin. “By providing free breakfast to all students in Pennsylvania, we can make the most important meal the most accessible meal and ensure that learners begin each day on the right foot.”
Under the program, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will use the existing meal reimbursement program to pay schools for the difference between the free federal reimbursement and paid or reduced-price meal reimbursement so that no student has an out-of-pocket cost for a reimbursable breakfast and students eligible for reduced lunch can receive a school lunch at no cost to their families at schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The Governor’s budget proposal will provide sustainable, recurring state funding to extend the program and will also allow students whose families are between 130% and 185% of the poverty line to receive a free lunch.
“Colonial School District understands the importance of nutrition as it relates to academic performance. We know that when students start the school day having had a nutritious meal, it can have a positive effect on the way they approach learning,” said Colonial School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Christian. “That’s why we have committed ourselves to offering a variety of healthy and tasty breakfast options for students when they first arrive. We are grateful for the state’s financial support of the school breakfast program, and we are hopeful that it will continue because we have seen the benefits it provides to our students.”
On average, more than 455,000 free breakfasts are served each day in Pennsylvania schools. There are 3,129 schools that participate in the program, serving more than 1.6 million students.
The Colonial School District serves more than 5,000 students from Conshohocken, Plymouth, and Whitemarsh in Montgomery County. Since the implementation of the Free School Breakfast Program, breakfast participation has increased by 175% at Colonial Elementary School and Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
Interested schools that do not currently participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs can find information for applying on PDE’s website.