School feeding programs are often pro-poor

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School feeding programs in low- and middle-income countries have been effective in improving the nutrition of the beneficiaries, as well as in boosting school enrollment and attendance rates. The State of Social Safety Nets 2018 reported on 117 economies with a school feeding program. These programs not only targeted food-insecure areas, but also sought to improve nutritional levels for individuals at a young age.

Between 2009 and 2016, school feeding programs benefited nearly 270 million children in 89 economies that received assistance from the World Bank, according to the Atlas of Social Protection Indicators. More than 20% of the children were from the poorest fifth of the population in terms of the income/consumption distribution (per capita pretransfer welfare). In Slovakia, Latvia, and Uruguay, more than 50% of the beneficiaries belonged to the poorest quintile.

An evaluation of the world’s largest school feeding program in India suggests that provision of meals in schools significantly improved the ratio of height-for-age (0.43 standard deviations) and weight-for-age (0.22 standard deviations) for vulnerable children affected by drought—metrics commonly used to measure stunting and wasting. Such results point to the potential of school feeding to improve nutrition for school-age children.

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