(WHTM) — In these very expensive times, many parents struggle to put enough food on the table. Beginning in October, schools that participate in a state program are helping students get the nutrition they need with the most important meal of the day.
The Universal Free Breakfast Program is part of Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to feed close to 2 million students across the Commonwealth. The program officially started Oct. 1 but Monday, Oct. 3 was the first day most school districts could implement it.
The $21.5 million dollar plan aims to make sure no student in Pennsylvania goes hungry.
“When you come to school, you get a free breakfast,” Wolf said when he announced the program in September.
The state will reimburse school districts for providing the free breakfast meals.
“Letting a child go hungry is morally wrong, but we also know it doesn’t help in your education process, which hurts all of us,” Wolf said.
The plan covers both public and private schools which participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, over 3,000 schools across Pennsylvania. All students can take advantage of free breakfast, no matter their grade or household income.
“I know that there’s nothing more important than our kids. You are really, really important to my future,” Wolf said.
The program comes at an especially difficult time for families, many still dealing with stubbornly high inflation.
Get the latest Pennsylvania politics and election news with abc27 newsletters!
“Food insecurity, high food and fuel prices while juggling a household budget, can mean that students arrive at school hungry and not ready to learn,” Melissa Froelich, public communications chair for the School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania, said.
Not every school district is impacted. Some school districts — including Harrisburg and Steelton-Highspire in the Midstate — already offer free breakfast to their students.
“A great opportunity here for all students in the state of Pennsylvania with universal breakfast, they all deserve it,” Steelton-Highspire superintendent Mick Iskric said.
School districts that do not qualify can still join the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to take advantage of the governor’s plan. Schools that are interested can find additional information online.
Stay up to date on the latest from abc27 News on-air and on the go with the free abc27 Mobile app.
“As of today, every school district will qualify for this no matter what they do,” Wolf said.
The free breakfast program is aiming to fill the gap after a pandemic-era program expired at the end of last school year. Under that program, aid from the federal government allowed all public school students to receive free meals.