What works: school meals programs

Literature Reviews
Education Commission
4 p.

There is a significant - and growing - body of evidence that well-designed and effectively delivered school meal programs are a cost-effective and scalable means to build human capital, improve learning outcomes, and improve health and nutrition. Despite setbacks during the pandemic, school meals programs have remained one of the largest social safety nets in the world, with 418 million children now benefiting from programs, an increase of 30 million from the level prior to 2020. Policymakers are eager to utilize this lever for change, as evidenced by 76 national governments who have joined the School Meals Coalition since its creation in 2021. Long-term learning outcomes from school feeding interventions vary by objective, national context (particularly by income level ), such as those of gender parity or social protection. The evidence body behind learning outcomes from school meals programs is still developing, as many learning gains need time to accumulate, and most evaluations do not cover a period long enough to truly gauge specific learning outcomes. However, evidence shows that the benefits of school meals are strongest for nutrition and enrollment. The impacts of school meals are likely to be greatest where the needs are most extreme, such as in low-income countries, where coverage is limited and security indicators are weaker.

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