The Black Panther Breakfast Program Tee
*All Proceeds To Be Donated*
The Black Panthers started the Free Breakfast Program because hunger and poverty made it difficult for many poor black children to learn in school. In 1968, most poor children went to school hungry and stayed hungry. The National School Lunch Program provided reduced-price, but not free lunches for poor children, and the National School Breakfast Program was limited to a few rural schools. To address this need, the Panthers initiated the Free Breakfast Program at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland in January 1969. Bobby Seale planned the program with Father Earl Neil and Parishioner Ruth Beckford-Smith, who coordinated the program and recruited neighborhood mothers. The Breakfast Program quickly spread to chapters in 23 cities by the end of the year. Local businesses, churches, and community-based organizations donated (sometimes with community pressure) space for the program and nutritious food like eggs, grits, toast, and milk. The Panthers fed more than 20,000 children nationally in 1969. By 1971, at least 36 cities had a breakfast program. In a 1969 U.S. Senate hearing, the National School Lunch Program administrator admitted that the Panthers fed more poor school children than did the State of California.