School meals as a safety net: an evaluation of the midday meal scheme in India

School meals as a safety net: an evaluation of the midday meal scheme in India

Despite the popularity of school meals, there is little evidence on their effect on health outcomes. This study uses newly available longitudinal data from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India to estimate the impact of the introduction of a national midday meal programme on anthropometric z-scores of primary school students, and investigates whether the programme ameliorated the deterioration of health in young children caused by a severe drought. Correcting for self-selection into the programme using a non-linearity in how age affects the probability of enrollment, this study argues that the programme acted as a safety net for children, providing large and significant health gains for children whose families suffered from drought.