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

  • Jay Bhattacharya
  • Janet Currie
  • Steven Haider

In this paper, the authors use the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III to examine the effect of the availability of the school breakfast program (SBP). Their work builds on previous research in four ways - First, they develop a transparent difference-in-differences strategy to account for unobserved differences between students with access to SBP and those without. Second, they examine serum measures of nutrient in addition to intakes based on dietary recall data. Third, they ask whether the SBP improves the diet by increasing/or decreasing the intake of nutrients relative to meaningful threshold levels. Fourth, they examine the effect of the SBP on other members of the family besides the school-aged child. They 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 they 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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Paper provided by RAND Corporation Publications Department in its series Working Papers with number 189.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:189
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  1. Jay Bhattacharya & Janet Currie, 2000. "Youths at Nutritional Risk: Malnourished or Misnourished?," NBER Working Papers 7686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1994, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Barbara L. Devaney Elizabeth A. Stuart, 1998. "Eating Breakfast: Effects of the School Breakfast Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports d6ccf0f21e6b4d8a8e9cfa650, Mathematica Policy Research.
  4. Anne Gordon Barbara L Devaney John Burghardt, 1995. "Dietary Effects of the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 0ef69f1c7c6a4b3eac82650c5, Mathematica Policy Research.
  5. John Burghardt Barbara L Devaney Anne Gordon, 1995. "The School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study Summary and Discussion," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 729306c8cd1e4a28b52d42f6f, Mathematica Policy Research.
  6. Behrman, Jere R., 1993. "Intrahousehold distribution and the family," Handbook of Population and Family Economics, in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 125-187 Elsevier.
  7. Philip M Gleason, 1995. "Participation in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 1e9d5e496d6b42b38984ce808, Mathematica Policy Research.
  8. Hanan G. Jacoby, 2002. "Is There an Intrahousehold "Flypaper Effect"? Evidence From a School Feeding Programme," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 196-221, January.
  9. Nord, Mark, 2005. "Measuring U.S. Household Food Security," Amber Waves, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April.
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