Free Breakfast Program

The Black Panther party’s Free Breakfast Program began in January 1969 at St. Augustine church in Oakland. 


From 1969 through the early 1970s, the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for School Children Program fed thousands of underserved children. It was one of the 40+ social programs created by the party and ultimately helped contribute to the existence of federal free breakfast programs today.


Churches were ideal spaces for food programs because they were community hubs that often had kitchens and could accommodate meal service. 


Black Panther Party members and volunteers went to local grocery stores to solicit donations, consulted with nutritionists on salubrious breakfast options for children, and prepared + served the food all free of charge. 


School officials immediately reported results in kids who had free breakfast before school. 


“The school principal came down and told us how different the children were,” Ruth Beckford, a parishioner who helped with the program. 


52 years later post program implementation, 1 in 7 people in the U.S. face hunger every year. The rates of hunger in children are even higher, with about 1 in 5 lacking proper access to food at some point during the year according to Feeding America. 


Why is it important for this program to exist?


Many children living in underserved areas depend on free (or reduced) breakfast and lunch provided by their specific school. When school concludes and summer begins, this means food may be limited depending on many factors that are rooted in poverty, the lack of access and limited resources. 


Athlos Academies gives us the following facts pertaining to breakfast and academic performance + behavioral actions. 



  • Students who eat breakfast show improved attendance, behavior, and academic performance, as well as decreased tardiness.

  • Students who skip breakfast show increased errors and have slower memory recall.

  • Children who eat breakfast at school—closer to class and test-taking time—perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast.

  • Students who eat breakfast the morning of a standardized test have significantly higher scores in spelling, reading, and math compared to those students who do not eat breakfast.

  • Student academic achievement increases, especially for math, when schools offer the School Breakfast Program.

  • Children and adolescents who skip breakfast tend to have poorer nutrient intakes than those who eat breakfast. Eating breakfast regularly has been linked with greater intake of fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals, and lower intake of fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

  • School breakfast has been linked with fewer visits to the school nurse, particularly in the morning.

  • Children and adolescents experiencing hunger have lower math scores and lower grades.

  • Children who participate in school breakfast are more likely to consume fruit and milk at breakfast.

  • Children and adolescents who eat breakfast have more favorable weight-related outcomes (e.g., lower BMI, lower waist circumference, lesser likelihood of being chronically obese, decreased risk of obesity) in the short term and long term than those who skip breakfast.

  • Children who eat breakfast show improved cognitive function, attention, and memory.



Food is not a privilege and should not be treated as such. It is a necessity that is needed now more than ever given the current pandemic. 



I wanted to continue this amazing work in Nashville that the Black Panthers accomplished all across the country. I prefer to be labeled a “Continuing Organizer” of this program because I am simply continuing the great work of those before me.  


Since Summer 2019, my continued version of this program has fed hundreds of children in Nashville, TN. Specifically in the North Nashville area. 


I am excited to expand to my hometown, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri during the Summer of 2021 for the 3rd year of this mutual aid program. 


Food is not a privilege and should not be treated as such. It is a necessity that is needed now more than ever given the current pandemic. 


More cities. More children. More food.

More impact. 


Join me as I continue the necessary work of our foremothers, forefathers and the entire Black Panther Party. 


I hope to see you soon. 


“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”


-Fredrick Douglass


In Solidarity,

Jeneisha C. Harris

Free Breakfast Program

Sign Up to Volunteer:

Nashville, Tennessee:

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St. Louis, Missouri:

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Ways to Donate:



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