It is widely known that hungry children struggle to learn in comparison to their more privileged peers. With children form marginalised backgrounds more likely to go hungry community groups have often had to fill the gap where others have failed.
Free meals for children have never been in the spotlight more than this week. An initiative largely led by footballer Marcus Rashford, cafes, supermarkets, churches and more are collecting and distributing packed lunches to children whose parents may be struggling to feed them.
crying with stomach cramps and hunger, having a hugely detrimental impact of the education of young black Americans.
This is not the first time that independent establishments and volunteers have stepped in to help children where it is felt the state has failed. The Black Panther Party ran a similar programme during the 1960s and 70s, feeding tens of thousands of hungry kids across North America.
Announced in September 1968, the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for School Children Program collected donations from grocery stores, consulted with nutritionists on the best healthy breakfast options for children, and then served the meals at schools for free. Children were often said to be falling asleep in class, crying with stomach cramps and hunger, having a hugely detrimental impact of the education of young black Americans.
They also raised awareness all over the United States of the poverty and hunger many people were experiencing.
While these programmes were concerned with providing aid, they importantly also taught the children Black History as they ate. By explaining the history of their own people, the work of Black Power groups came to be more understood. They also helped to show people another side to the movement, opposing the gun carrying and violent image it was often seen as having.
They also raised awareness all over the United States of the poverty and hunger many people were experiencing. It put pressure on the American government to address these issues, much as the current free school meals initiative in the UK is attempting to do.
Between 1967 to 1971 the number of research universities offering black studies programs increased from less than 5% percent to over 35%. The initiative was clearly having an impact not just on feeding children but educating them on their own past.
The parallels between the situation many are faced with today is undeniable.
The campaign also lead to a change nationally as a Federal free school breakfast programme was created. This demonstrated how by working to help the children in their community the Black Panther’s has a positive impact on children from all backgrounds.
The Black Panther’s programme was a milestone in helping underprivileged black children. It highlighted the importance of a good and healthy diet has on your ability to learn, as well as the important of teaching children the history of struggle within their own community.
The parallels between the situation many are faced with today is undeniable. Once again we have seen neighbourhoods come together and help those in need, and hope that history will not be forced repeat itself again.
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