By Marc Mascarenhas-Swan
First day back at school, and I couldn’t help but think of, and thank, the Black Panthers, when my 8 year old daughter went to go and collect the free breakfast for her class from the cafeteria. She handed out Whole Grain Banana Bread, Low Fat Milk, and Gala Apples, pretty simple stuff really. What I love even more than the healthy food they serve, is that all the kids are offered some; not just the kids from families that qualify for free or subsidized meals, because singling out and stigmatizing kids for needing support just isn’t cool. But like the 8 hour work day, weekends, and free education, things like free breakfast in schools don’t just happen.
44 years ago, in January 1969, the Black Panther’s launched their Free Breakfast Program for children. The program rapidly expanded from feeding a handful of kids in an Oakland church, to serving over 10,000 a day before they went to school. It spoke volumes about both the deep need in the black community, and the reach and capacity of the party nationally.