Black History Month: Celebrating the Origins of Free Breakfast and the Food Justice Movement

“The Black Panther Party never just went into the community and did things. People told us what they needed.”

Ericka Huggins, human rights activist, educator, and Black Panther leader.

At Share Our Strength, the organization behind No Kid Hungry, we believe that hunger is a solvable problem. But we know that we can’t solve it alone. We need the support and engagement of policy makers, advocates, school leaders, community partners, donors, philanthropists and most importantly – the community we serve.

History teaches us that if we really are interested in making long term progress in communities - then we have to understand what the barriers and challenges are - by hearing and working directly with those who are impacted.

When the Black Panther Party was established in 1966, they begun to hear loud and clear that children in Oakland were hungry and did not have access to nutritious meals. They understood that the ability to focus and be ready for school is so much harder for a child if they don’t have a nutritious breakfast. They started the free breakfast program in 1969 to help ensure kids had a healthy start to the day. By 1971, the Black Panthers had implemented programs in 36 cities across the country. Serving children in church basements, community centers and cafeterias – they served free meals to thousands of young people. Their efforts ultimately helped to inspire the National School Breakfast program which expanded to all schools by 1975. 

We invite you to revisit one of our first and most powerful editions of the Conversation on Food Justice Series. In it, you’ll hear from Ericka Huggins, Devita Davison and Norbert Wilson about the origins of the free breakfast and food justice movement. The movement was certainly propelled by the Black Panther party – but it was forged through a history of struggle, dedication and sacrifice that lives on today. 

Without these movements, Share Our Strength and so many other organizations fighting for food justice would not exist. We stand on the shoulders of so many who came before us and take the responsibility we have to make a long-lasting impact in the lives of children seriously. We will end childhood hunger in the country together. And we’ll do it with the resolve, conviction and tenacious commitment to community - that so many before us had.