Black-Led Movements in Nutrition and Food Justice: Spotlight on the Black Panther Party

Written by Tanvir Jassal & Edited by Christabel Menezes

Who are the Black Panthers?

Established in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California. Formed in response to ongoing systemic inequities in urban black communities despite the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement. Developed various community programs, including free clothing and shoes, ambulance services, health clinics. The most notable program was the Free Breakfast for Children Program (FBFC).

BPP 10 Point Program

Despite media portrayal as an extremist group, the BPP intended to uplift the Black community by any means.

  1. We Want Freedom.
  2. We Want Full Employment for Our People.
  3. We Want An End to the Robbery By the Capitalists of Our Black Community.
  4. We Want Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter of Human Beings.
  5. We Want Education for Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society. We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History And Our Role in the Present-Day Society.
  6. We Want All Black Men To Be Exempt From Military Service.
  7. We Want An Immediate End to Police Brutality and the Murder of Black People.
  8. We Want Freedom For All Black Men Held in Federal, State, County and City Prisons and Jails.
  9. We Want All Black People When Brought to Trial To Be Tried In Court By A Jury Of Their Peer Group Or People From Their Black Communities, As Defined By the Constitution of the United States.
  10. We Want Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace.

Reception of the FBFC

  • Began serving free breakfasts at churches in Oakland and San Francisco.
  • BPP chief of staff David Hilliard was instrumental to the programs growth while Newton and Seale were imprisoned (and later acquitted).
  • Many attempts were made by police and FBI agents to disrupt the program. Participants, donors, and supporters were harassed through raids and intimidation.
  • FBI head J. Edgar Hoover called the program “potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for
  • One FBI raid in Chicago ended with smashing and urinating on all the food that was to be used for the children’s breakfast program.
Program Operations included a minimum of 10 people to run the program, sample weekly menus, space for 50 children and suitable kitchen equipment for food prep, space for hanging coats, waste disposal, food storage and equipment.
Funding was acquired by donations of wealthy white philanthropists, humanitarians, corporations and Black-owned businesses. Traffic control established to aid children crossing the street, reception and coat hanger, servers, cooks.

Implications and Legacy

A prominent example of a Black-Led food and nutrition movement, the Free Breakfast Program met a community need by reducing hunger and food insecurity. It highlighted the government failure and lack of support for childhood hunger.

At its peak in 1971, the BPP established programs in 36 cities. It recognized the emerging research associating the relationship between children’s nourishment and learning outcomes. It set the precedent for the USA’s future national breakfast program.

Blakemore, E. (2018, February 6). How the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program Both Inspired and Threatened the Government. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from
Boyd, V. (2021, March 23). How the Black Panthers Fed Their Communities for Free. Bon Appétit. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from
Duncan, G. Albert (2021, February 9). Black Panther Party. Encyclopedia Britannica.
Harris, B. (2015). The Most Important Legacy of the Black Panthers. Culture Desk. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from
Lateef, Husain and Androff, David (2017) ““Children Can’t Learn on an Empty Stomach”: The Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program,” The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 44 : Iss. 4 , Article 2. Available at:
Russonello, G. (2016, October 16). Fascination and Fear: Covering the Black Panthers. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from
The Black Panther Party. (n.d). Pratt Library Research Guides. Retrieved from:
(1966) The Black Panther Party ten-point program . Retrieved February 13, 2022, from

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