Globally, there are 370 million children receiving school meals every day. Coverage is least in low-income countries, where the need is greatest and where program costs are viewed as high in comparison with the benefits to public health alone. Here we explore the policy implications of including the returns of school feeding to other sectors in an economic analysis. The multi-sectoral analysis suggests that the overall benefits of school feeding are several times greater than the returns to public health alone, and that the overall benefit-cost ratio of school feeding programs could vary between 7 and 35, with particular sensitivity to the value of local wages. The scale of the findings suggests that school feeding programs are potentially much more cost-beneficial when viewed from the perspective of their multi-sectoral returns, and that it would be worthwhile following up with more detailed analyses at the national level to enhance the precision of these estimates.
Frontiers in Public Health, 8:587046
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