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Breakfast of Champions? The School Breakfast Program and the Nutrition of Children and Families

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  • Jayanta Bhattacharya
  • Janet Currie
  • Steven Haider

Abstract

We use the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III to examine the effect of the availability of the school breakfast program (SBP). Our work builds on previous research in four ways: First, we develop a transparent difference-in-differences strategy to account for unobserved differences between students with access to SBP and those without. Second, we examine serum measures of nutrient in addition to intakes based on dietary recall data. Third, we ask whether the SBP improves the diet by increasing/or decreasing the intake of nutrients relative to meaningful threshold levels. Fourth, we examine the effect of the SBP on other members of the family besides the school-aged child. We have three main findings. First, the SBP helps students build good eating habits: SBP increases scores on the healthy eating index, reduces the percentage of calories from fat, and reduces the probability of low fiber intake. Second, the SBP reduces the probability of serum micronutrient deficiencies in vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate, and it increases the probability that children meet USDA recommendations for potassium and iron intakes. Since we find no effect on total calories these results indicate that the program improves the quality of food consumed. Finally, in households with school-aged children, both preschool children and adults have healthier diets and consume less fat when the SBP is available. These results suggest that school nutrition programs may be an effective way to combat both nutritional deficiencies and excess consumption among children and their families.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10608.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Publication status: published as Bhattacharya J, Currie J, and Haider S, “Breakfast of Champions? The Nutritional Effects of the School Breakfast Program,” Journal of Human Resources (2006) 41(3):445-466.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10608

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  1. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
  2. Behrman, Jere R., 1993. "Intrahousehold distribution and the family," Handbook of Population and Family Economics, Elsevier, in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 125-187 Elsevier.
  3. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Hanan G. Jacoby, 2002. "Is There an Intrahousehold "Flypaper Effect"? Evidence From a School Feeding Programme," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 196-221, January.
  5. Jay Bhattacharya & Janet Currie, 2000. "Youths at Nutritional Risk: Malnourished or Misnourished?," NBER Working Papers 7686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nord, Mark, 2005. "Measuring U.S. Household Food Security," Amber Waves, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April.
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