Speaker : Dr. Tanika Chakraborty
We study the effect of the world’s largest school feeding program on children’s learning outcomes. Staggered implementation across different states of a 2001 Indian Supreme Court Directive ordering the introduction of free school lunches in primary schools generates plausibly exogenous variation in program exposure across different birth cohorts. We exploit this to estimate the effect of program exposure on math and reading test scores of primary school-aged children. We ﬁnd that midday meals have a dramatic positive effect on cognitive achievement: children exposed to the program throughout primary school experience an improvement in their reading scores by 0.20 standard deviations and in math scores by 0.15 standard deviations. We provide suggestive evidence on the extent to which this improvement is driven by a nutrition-learning vis-à-vis enrollment channel.