Children who eat lunch score 18 percent higher in reading tests

The causal effect of regular meals on learning.


According to a new study by the ESMT Berlin, children who often attend a public free lunch program are more likely to have better learning results. Children with five years of early midday meals had perusing test scores that are 18% higher than those of understudies with not exactly a time of school lunches. They also showed an improvement of 9% for math test scores.

The study highlights the importance of the link between nutrition and education. Moreover, this is the longest and largest study into the effect of midday meals on primary school-aged children’s learning.

For the study, scientists exploited data from nearly 600 rural districts in India, covering over 200,000 households. Because of the amazing execution of the program crosswise over areas, they were able to identify recognize the causal impact of regular meals on learning.

Professors Rajshri Jayaraman from ESMT Berlin said, “The effect of nutrition appears to be cumulative, seen over time. Previous studies have varied between two weeks and two years, and failed to capture the important impact – our research shows that the real benefit of school lunches was seen in children exposed for two to five years.”

The findings confirm the substantial value for children in free school meal programs that are run around the world. According to the World Food Program, 368 million children globally – that’s one in five – received a school meal in 2013 at a cost of 75 billion US dollars.

The paper “School Feeding and Learning Achievement: Evidence from India’s Midday Meal Program” is forthcoming in the Journal of Development Economics.

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