Nearly 1.7 million students throughout Pennsylvania are set to receive universal free breakfast in public schools, with Bucks County accounting for roughly 86,000 of those students.
The recently approved 2023-2024 state budget included the free breakfast program that was championed by Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat.
The budget has an infusion of $46.5 million to ensure public school students can access a free breakfast irrespective of their financial background. Additionally, 22,000 students, currently on the National School Lunch Program’s reduced-price lunch list, will also receive free lunches.
Studies indicate that when students are given free breakfast at school, they often display enhanced focus, better understanding, and increased attendance.
“We can’t expect our kids to pay attention in class, learn, and have the best opportunities to succeed if they haven’t eaten all day – which is why I proposed providing free breakfast to every child in our public schools in my first budget address,” said Shapiro.
The governor, who is eight months into his first term, said universal free breakfast was a priority for his administration.
Former Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, implemented a universal free breakfast program in 2022. However, that program ended at the end of last school board.
The overall allocation for schools in the recently-approved budget is $10 billion.
Apart from the $46.5 million designated for the free breakfast program, Pennsylvania school districts will benefit from a $567 million boost in basic education funds. The budget also earmarks a $50 million rise in funds for special education and a $23.5 million commitment towards vocational and workforce training programs. These allocations aim to expand the workforce and provide students with the tools to shape their futures, according to Shapiro’s office.
“Students and underfunded schools are going to get the basic resources that they need – and with a $46 million investment, students who come to school with an empty stomach are going to get a free breakfast no matter their family’s income,” Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Dr. Khalid Mumin said.