BHM Lesson: Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for Children Program

There are many misconceptions about the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the organization’s purpose. You’ll find large groups in the general public who believe that the BPP, founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, was a crew of angry, racists, gun toting black men. That’s not true at all.

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Part of my research as a McNair Scholar is to dispel some of the negative images of the BPP. Founded in 1966 in Oakland, Calif. to protect citizens from police brutality, the Panthers also had many Survival Programs for the poor communities. These programs included health clinics, schools, ambulance services, among others. But one of the most impactful of these Survival Programs was the Free Breakfast For Children Program.

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Thanks to the prolific scholars over at African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), a small portion of my research on the Free Breakfast for Children Program was published on their site.

“The first BPP Breakfast Program opened in January 1969 at Father Earl A. Neil’s St. Augustine Episcopal Church in Oakland, California. On the first day of the Free for Children Breakfast Program, Party members fed eleven children. By the end of that week, the number rose to 135 children. According to BPP member Flores Forbes, Panthers “cooked, served the food, knocked on doors to let the people know which apartment the food was being served in.” Less than two months later, the Party opened up another breakfast program at San Francisco’s Sacred Heart Church.”

“In Los Angeles, Forbes and others spoke to parents and business owners, explaining how the Breakfast Program would help black children “grow and intellectually develop because children can’t learn on empty stomachs.” Forbes later recalled that the response was “overwhelming.” Breakfast Programs were springing up everywhere. During the height of the Party’s influence, the Los Angeles Breakfast Program provided food for an estimated 1,200 children per week. In New Orleans, the BPP’s Breakfast Program fed more than 300 children on a weekly basis.”

Head over to AAIHS to read the article in its entirety.