On March 15, 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that since its implementation, the Free School Breakfast Program has served more than 23 million breakfasts to students across the Commonwealth.
“Research shows that when students get proper nutrition, they are both physically and mentally prepared to learn and therefore, perform better in school,” said Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “By continuing to offer free breakfast to all students, we are fueling healthy minds and bodies while reducing stigma related to food insecurity in our schools.”
Last week in his budget address, Governor Josh Shapiro highlighted the importance of the program and proposed $38.5 million in funding to continue providing universal free breakfast through the 2023-24 school year. Rather than a one-time influx, Governor Shapiro’s proposal provides ongoing, sustainable state funding for free breakfast in the years to come, because students learn and grow better on a full stomach. The Governor’s budget proposal would also allow students who qualify for reduced meals to receive lunch at no cost.
Under the program, 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. Reimbursement applies only to standard breakfast and lunch served at schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
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.
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.
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. Since the program began, school breakfast participation is up overall, with participation doubling among students who would usually have to pay full price.
According to the School Nutrition Association, students who eat breakfast are more likely to reach higher levels of achievement in reading and math, score higher on standardized tests, have better concentration and memory, and be more alert and maintain a healthy weight.