Free short stacks and charity will be on the menu at local International House of Pancakes (IHOP) restaurants today, as part of the company’s National Pancake Day celebration.

In honor of the holiday, IHOP restaurants across the country will hand out one free short stack of pancakes to each customer between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Miguel Velasques, general manager of the IHOP at 4765 Calle Real in Goleta, said customers can also choose to donate money to First Book – a nonprofit group that brings books and literacy programs to low-income families – as part of the event’s festivities.

“The purpose of the national pancake day is to promote the free pancakes and donate money from IHOP to [First Book],” Velasques said.

According to the First Book website, the international charity has distributed more than 40 million books to children in over 1,300 communities in America.

Velasques said he thinks National Pancake Day gives locals a chance to donate money to a worthwhile charity and receive something in return. Donations are recommended but not required, and the restaurant will accept contributions of any amount.

“Everyone that comes into IHOP will receive a free short stack of pancakes,” Velasques said. “That’s three free pancakes and you can just drop a dollar in or whatever.”

In a press release, IHOP Chief Marketing Officer Carolyn O’Keefe said she thinks National Pancake Day gives IHOP customers the chance to enjoy a free breakfast with their friends and family while contributing to a good cause.

“National Pancake Day is the perfect occasion to bring together families to support the communities in which we do business,” O’Keefe said.

National Pancake Day, according to an IHOP press release, is inspired by Shrove Tuesday, a centuries-old English holiday that commemorated the last day before Catholic Lent. Because strict rules prohibited the consumption of dairy products during lent, people made pancakes on Shrove Tuesday to use up their remaining eggs, milk and butter. Shrove Tuesday became nicknamed Pancake Day, and was later embraced by IHOP as National Pancake Day.

Velasques said all the IHOP restaurants in the Santa Barbara area, including the Goleta branch and the restaurant at 1701 State St., are participating in the promotion.