Pennsylvania announces free school breakfast program for K-12 students

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The contents of a school lunch at Central Dauphin East High School. During the coronavirus COVID-19 shutdown, drive-through distribution of breakfast and lunch will be available each weekday from 8:30 a.m. through 11:00 a.m. at Central Dauphin East High School and Swatara Middle School. This first-come, first-served program is for all resident children in the district ages 18 and under, March 17, 2020. (Dan Gleiter / PennLive)

(WITF) – This year, almost every K-12 student in Pennsylvania will receive a free school breakfast paid for by the commonwealth.

Governor Tom Wolf announced the Universal Free Breakfast Program on Friday at Steelton-Highspire Elementary School in Dauphin County.

He said it’s unacceptable for any student to be hungry.

“We all know how important education is to our communities, and we now know how important nutrition is to education. We want high quality education in Pennsylvania. We got to make sure that everybody who comes to school can eat,” he said.

The Universal Free Breakfast Program will give free meals to 1.7 million children in public, private, and charter schools; career and technology schools; childcare centers; and intermediate units that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

Wolf said he has a personal stake in the success of the students in the commonwealth.

“I need you to go out in the world and come up with a cure for some disease that’s going to affect my family, or come up with a killer app, or become a teacher, do the things that are… going to make our commonwealth a better place for all of us,” Wolf said. “And so, I need you to get a good education.”

The program begins in October and lasts through the school year.

The $21.5 million plan will be paid for with money from the previous year’s School Food Services General Fund appropriation.

The pandemic-era federal aid that made school meals available for free to all public school students, ended this past school year, despite a push in Congress to extend it. In Pennsylvania, officials say breakfast consumption under the free meals program increased by 16%, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Nationwide, other states have adopted legislation to provide free meals regardless of income level.

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