Success! Washington DC to Fully Fund School Breakfast

Judy Molland

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but some parents don’t have enough money or time to fix a healthy breakfast every day for their youngsters.

That’s when it becomes the responsibility of schools to provide a morning meal.

In 2010, the Healthy Schools Act instituted free breakfast for public school students across the District of Columbia. Schools where more than 40 percent of the students quality for free or reduced-price lunch were required to offer breakfast in the classroom or on “grab-and-go” carts.

An amendment to this act was passed by the D.C. Council last year, adding an annual $2 subsidy for each student for alternative delivery — as well as an extra 10 percent reimbursement every time a school breakfast is served — for a total of around $3 million.

But by April, 2019, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council still hadn’t included the extra money required by this amendment into the budget.

That made Pumpkin Dicks understandably upset. Dicks, a grandmother and primary caregiver of a fifth grader in D.C. public schools, saw that Mayor Bowser was not stepping up to the plate for students. She decided to create a Care2 petition asking the Council to prioritize their children’s health by fully funding the Healthy Students Amendment Act.

As Dicks explained in her petition:

Healthy school breakfasts have been linked to higher test scores, improved concentration, alertness and memory. Breakfast is critical to our children’s health and their education, and we must prioritize it.


The petition garnered more than 33,000 signatures over three months — and, as a result, D.C.’s final budget now includes full funding for school breakfasts.

As Dicks wrote on her petition: “We are so excited that the DC City Council decided to stand up for children’s health and education by fully funding school breakfast.”

Congratulations to Dicks and to all the Care2 activists who signed on to her petition.

This is a wonderful example of many organizations contributing to a success. Dicks originally was working with Friends of the Earth and brought her petition to a D.C. School Food Advisory Board meeting.

Chloe Waterman, a food campaigner with Friends of the Earth, tells Care2: “I told Pumpkin about Care2 because I had partnered on a successful petition with Care2 a couple years ago. We were excited and grateful that Care2 helped us promote our petition to over 33,000!”

Waterman also explains that the Care2 petition was instrumental in showing D.C. Council members how many D.C. residents care deeply about students getting healthy and sustainable school meals.

The coalition also included D.C. Hunger Solutions, DC Greens, DC Central Kitchen, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and members of the Good Food Purchasing Program Coalition.

Well done to everyone!

As Nick E., from the District of Columbia, wrote on the petition: “Used to be a public school teacher, at a school where kids received free breakfast and it 100% changed/improved each child’s mood and performance.”

Makes sense, right?