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Do Means-Tested School Lunch Subsidies Change Children's Weekly Consumption Patterns?

  • Howard, Larry L.


    (California State University, Fullerton)

  • Prakash, Nishith


    (University of Connecticut)

This article examines whether the means-tested component of the National School Lunch Program changes beneficiaries' dietary patterns by taking advantage of variation across public school districts in the financing of and demand for lunch and nutrition programs. Using data on fifth grade public elementary school children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten (2003-2004), we find significant increases in weekly rates of consumption amongst fully and partially subsidized children. Our estimates also suggest that the increase was for items known to be a rich source of vitamins and minerals that are essential for children's health and development. The effects are larger for fully subsidized children relative to partially subsidized children, which suggests the nominal price of school lunch is a binding constraint for certain children on the margin of eligibility for the subsidies. To the extent that children from low-income households experience undernourishment with greater frequency, policy discussion focusing exclusively on the link between obesity and program participation is overlooking positive effects on those who are directly subsidized.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4427.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Do School Lunch Subsidies Change the Dietary Patterns of Children from Low-Income Households?' in: Contemporary Economic Policy, 2011, [Early View]
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4427
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  2. Hilary W. Hoynes & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2007. "Consumption Reponses to In-Kind Transfers: Evidence from the Introduction of the Food Stamp Program," Working Papers 0711, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  3. Janet Currie, 2003. "U.S. Food and Nutrition Programs," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 199-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Daniel L. Millimet & Rusty Tchernis & Muna Husain, 2008. "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," NBER Working Papers 14297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Dixon, Helen G. & Scully, Maree L. & Wakefield, Melanie A. & White, Victoria M. & Crawford, David A., 2007. "The effects of television advertisements for junk food versus nutritious food on children's food attitudes and preferences," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(7), pages 1311-1323, October.
  8. Philip M. Gleason & Carol W. Suitor, 2003. "Eating at School: How the National School Lunch Program Affects Children's Diets," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(4), pages 1047-1061.
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  10. Sharon K. Long, 1991. "Do the School Nutrition Programs Supplement Household Food Expenditures?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(4), pages 654-678.
  11. Jacoby, Hanan, 1997. "Is there an intrahousehold 'flypaper effect'?," FCND discussion papers 31, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  12. repec:mpr:mprres:5673 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Duncan Thomas & John Strauss & Maria-Helena Henriques, 1991. "How Does Mother's Education Affect Child Height?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(2), pages 183-211.
  14. Peter Hinrichs, 2010. "The effects of the National School Lunch Program on education and health," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(3), pages 479-505.
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