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Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Policy: Providing Free Meals During Breakfast and Lunch to Students Coming From Low Income Households


Good nutrition is necessary for good health, particularly during childhood, and is an essential component of a holistic approach to attaining health equity. The availability of school breakfast has been connected to both educational and nutritional advantages, according to a study by Altindag et al. (2020). Existing research demonstrates that a healthy breakfast can help children succeed in school and enhance their general body health. Youngsters who skipped breakfast exhibited lower nutritious intakes than children who take breakfast either at home or at school. Children’s misbehavior, particularly physical fighting, is reduced by 35%, according to a study on the Free School Meal Program (FSMP). Short-term hunger relief is the goal of school feeding programs to improve students’ nutritional well-being and academic performance while also redistributing funds to children’s families. These feeding initiatives have improved the health, school attendance and health of disadvantaged students in developing nations. This strategy is helpful in many ways, including increasing school productivity, success, and attendance while also reducing physical disputes among students. It’s a win-win for everyone (study Altindag et al., 2020). This research aims to examine the efficacy of offering free meals to students from low-income families at low-income institutions.


Schools all around the globe have food programs that provide students with hot and cold meals and snacks over the course of the school day. Students from low-income and food-insecure households would benefit most from these programs aimed at improving their nutritional intake. Reduced stigma might lead to increased school lunch attendance and fewer administrative costs, say proponents of universal school food programs.

Impact on School Attendance

This study’s most important finding was a 95% or higher turnout rate, indicating that students missed no more than two to three days of school every term. There was an increase in involvement in free school lunches for both non-poor and poor students alike, according to a survey conducted in 2017, which found that non-poor students took part in the program twice as often as poor students. The study ties the educational advantage to a higher willingness to attend classes due to the reduced-cost or no-price lunch, indicating that the meal supplied an even more significant attendance motivation than mandated attendance legislation (Gordon & Ruffini, 2018). Again, in places where school attendance is poor, providing at a minimum on nutritious lunch each day increases enrollment and stimulates regular attendance. A healthy meal like porridge is made from insta goods that employ fortified food to guarantee that students get the vitamins they need. Eating habits significantly impact a child’s physical and mental growth. Increasing school attendance among food-insecure students is the program’s primary goal (Bartfeld et al., 2020). Children are more likely to attend school if they have food to keep them energized and focused on their studies.

Educational Impact

Anemic and Stunted children and those who are malnourished have low school attendance, lousy conduct, poor cognition, and worse academic attainment, according to Gordanier et al. (2022). Thus, such students are more prone to leave school prematurely and repeat classes. Providing proper dietary and health treatments during school years will enhance the children’s achievement. Increasing enrollment, boosting school attendance, reducing dropout rates, absenteeism, and improving academic achievement are benefits of bettering children’s nutrition and health, as are increased social fairness and emotional and economic growth. Additionally, according to research by Gordanier et al. (2020), healthy nutrition correlates to greater school attentiveness, productivity, and higher educational achievement. Cognitive development and function may be influenced by food choices, which have been found to increase mental fitness like concentration and memory. According to research, school lunch programs consistently have a good impact on educational achievements. Breakfast inside the classroom improved student performance minimized disruptions and cut down on absences. According to studies, these programs are cost-effective strategies to enhance student education and test results than lower class sizes, which comes with more implementation expenses. As per a study that examined the impact school lunch food has on academic success by assessing end-of-year testing results, students who took healthier lunches. For instance, those with higher HEI grades had grades that were four percentile points higher on average. Schwartz & Rothbart (2020) posits that the test score gains were roughly 40 percent larger for those eligible for NSLP programs.

Effect on Behavior

A student’s perception of the school environment significantly impacts their emotional and social well-being and academic performance. The NSLP offers free meals to all students, potentially reducing external indications of socioeconomic class. The NSLP Students’ ability to get along in the playing field, cafeteria, and elsewhere might benefit from NSLP (Cuadros-Meñaca et al., 2021). Students’ attitudes and participation in the NSLP may differ significantly based on individual socioeconomic status and previous engagement behavior. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) reduces the visible signs of social and economic status connected with school lunches. Moreover, the NSLP’s reduction in price component can build a more communal and friendlier environment and better interactions among students. These findings suggest that NSLP has the same positive effects on students’ perceptions of the school setting and school uniform requirements. Additionally, in a study that attempted to test the efficiency of sufficiently nourished students to malnourished children with a further comparison of age-related disparity in cognitive performance, it was discovered that the malnutrition children differed to an extent from the adequately nourished students on tests of design fluency, phonemic fluency, selective attention, visual-spatial operations, visual-spatial working memory, verbal synthesis, and memory (Cuadros-Meñaca et al., 2021). Results from the oral fluency assessment demonstrate that adequately- fed youngsters earned higher mean grades in both age groups correspondingly compared to respective malnourished peers.


Providing free meals during breakfast and lunch for school students promotes school attendance and participation by 95 percent, increases test results by around 40 percent, and strengthens student interaction, thereby reducing lousy conduct and violence. The availability of complimentary breakfast in schools encourages all students to use the initiative regardless of their family’s financial situation. Encouraging more regular attendance at school is another benefit for low-income students. The previous study has indicated that NSLP promotes both participations. It also boosts test scores, lowers occurrences of poor behavior, and implies that students in participating institutions have proper weight outcomes. The meals program has considerably more favorable impacts on youngsters than negative consequences. Therefore, it is necessary to offer breakfast and lunch to children from low-income households in low-income institutions to promote learning and social scores.


Altindag, D. T., Baek, D., Lee, H., & Merkle, J. (2020). Free lunch for all? The impact of universal school lunch on student misbehavior. Economics of Education Review, 74, 101945,

Bartfeld, J. S., Berger, L., & Men, F. (2020). Universal access to free school meals through the Community Eligibility Provision is associated with better attendance for low-income elementary school students in Wisconsin. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics120(2), 210-218,

Cuadros-Meñaca, A., Thomsen, M. R., & Nayga Jr, R. M. (2021). The Effect of School Breakfast on Student Behavior: An Evaluation of Breakfast After the Bell. Available at SSRN 3806620,

Gordanier, J., Ozturk, O., Williams, B., & Zhan, C. (2020). Free lunch for all! the effect of the community eligibility provision on academic outcomes. Economics of Education Review, 77, 101999,

Gordon, N. E., & Ruffini, K. J. (2018). School nutrition and student discipline: Effects of schoolwide free meals (No. w24986). National Bureau of Economic Research,

Schwartz, A. E., & Rothbart, M. W. (2020). Let them eat lunch: The impact of universal free meals on student performance. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 39(2), 376-410,


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