School feeding programs improve nutrition and child growth across generations: Evidence from India
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
BY SUMAN CHAKRABARTI, SAMUEL SCOTT, HAROLD ALDERMAN, PURNIMA MENON AND DANIEL GILLIGAN
By April 2020, schools in 170 countries were closed to curtail COVID-19 transmission. In India, 247 million children have been out of the classroom for over a year. Beyond the devastating consequences school closures are having on learning, health experts are particularly concerned about vulnerable Indian children missing out on the free lunch they receive at school. The findings of our new paper in Nature Communications suggest that the current disruption of India’s school feeding program could have consequences for the next generation of children as well.
In the first-ever rigorous evaluation of the impact a school feeding program has on the next generation, our research demonstrates India’s free school meals program is associated with better growth outcomes in the children of those who participated in the program as children themselves. This suggests such programs generate benefits well beyond the health and well-being of beneficiaries.
Photo credit: Shyamal Das/ILO