“Service to the People” – the Importance of Community Food Programs

Freedom Center Voices

August 1, 2023

“Service to the People” – The Importance of Community Food Programs

Food insecurity has long been a problem in the United States, made worse by increased income inequality. Wages have stagnated while food and healthcare prices keep increasing. According to Feeding America, over nine million children faced food insecurity in 2021. In that same year, 22% of Black children were food insecure. According to No Kid Hungry, food insecurity affects concentration, memory, mood and motor skills, which ultimately impacts school performance and behavior.

Food insecurity is a problem that many community organizations have fought to end. One of the most famous of these programs was the Free Breakfast for School Children started by the Black Panther Party. The Panthers were started by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in the mid-1960s to combat issues facing Black communities, such as hunger and lack of medical access.

The Black Panther Party recognized that hunger negatively impacts a child’s education and basic functionality. The Free Breakfast for Schoolchildren Program offered free, hot and nutritionally balanced breakfast for any child who attended the program. The program started off feeding a few hundred kids but grew to help over 20,000 kids by the end of its first year. By 1969, hundreds of free breakfast programs had opened throughout the country.  

Another Black Panther Party food initiative was the Free Food Program, which focused on all community members, not just children. According to Food Insecurity in Black Communities by Feeding America, Black Americans are three times more likely to face hunger than white Americans. Each week, the organization would deliver a week’s worth of nutritious, fresh foods to those requesting assistance. Food donations from various stores helped fuel both of the Panther food programs. In 1969, the U.S. National Lunch Program acknowledged that the Panthers were feeding more low-income children than they were. 

You can still find local food aid in your community. These programs can be found at food banks such as the Freestore Foodbank. Local churches often have food pantries that deliver food to their neighbors. Consider donating to these organizations or volunteering to cook and distribute food.  

Autumn Pitney - Manager of Guest Experiences

Autumn holds a Bachelor's degree in Art History, Criticism and Conversation from the University of Cincinnati, and has been with the Freedom Center for almost two years (at time of publishing). 

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