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DO SCHOOL LUNCH SUBSIDIES CHANGE THE DIETARY PATTERNS OF CHILDREN FROM LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS?

Authors

  • LARRY L. HOWARD,

    1. Howard: Department of Economics, California State University, Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, CA 92834-6848. Phone 1-657-278-7171, Fax 1-657-278-3097, E-mail larryhoward@fullerton.edu
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  • NISHITH PRAKASH

    1. Prakash: Department of Economics and Human Rights Institute, CReAM, IZA, University of Connecticut, 341 Mansfield Road, Storrs, CT 06269. Phone 1-860-486-3022, Fax 1-860-486-4463, E-mail nishith.prakash@uconn.edu
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    • The authors would like to thank Chris Barrett, Marianne Bitler, Celeste Carruthers, Barbara Devaney, Andy Gill, Phil Gleason, Joanne Guthrie, Bob Mead, Dave Ribar, participants in the “The Effect of School Meal Programs” session at the APPAM Research Conference in fall 2009, and three anonymous referees for many helpful discussions and comments on an earlier draft entitled “Do Means-Tested School Lunch Subsidies Change Children's Weekly Consumption Patterns?”


Abstract

This article examines the effects of school lunch subsidies provided through the means-tested component of the National School Lunch Program on the dietary patterns of children aged 10–13 years in the United States. Analyzing data on 5,140 public school children in fifth grade during spring 2004, we find significant increases in the number of servings of fruit, green salad, carrots, other vegetables, and 100% fruit juice consumed in 1 week for subsidized children relative to unsubsidized children. The effects on fruit and other vegetable consumption are stronger among the children receiving a full subsidy, as opposed to only a partial subsidy, and indicate the size of the subsidy is an important policy lever underlying the program's effectiveness. Overall, the findings provide the strongest empirical evidence to date that the means-tested school lunch subsidies increase children's consumption over a time period longer than one school day. (JEL H51, I12, I38)

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