Child welfare programs and child nutrition: Evidence from a mandated school meal program in India
Utilizing the data I collected on a nationally mandated school meal program in India, I examine the extent to which children benefit from the targeted public transfer. Relying upon built-in randomness in whether a child's 24-hour food consumption recall was for a school or non-school day, I find that the daily nutrient intake of program participants increased substantially by 49% to 100% of the transfers. The results are robust to the potential endogeneity of program placement and individual participation. The findings suggest that for as low a cost as 3Â cents per child per school day the scheme reduced the daily protein deficiency of a primary school student by 100%, the calorie deficiency by almost 30% and the daily iron deficiency by nearly 10%. At least in the short-run, therefore, the program had a substantial effect on reducing hunger at school and protein-energy malnutrition.
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