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Article

Universal School Meals in the US: What Can We Learn from the Community Eligibility Provision?

Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Connecticut, 1 Constitution Plaza, Hartford, CT 06103, USA
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Academic Editor: Antoni Sureda
Nutrients 2021, 13(8), 2634; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082634
Received: 1 July 2021 / Revised: 26 July 2021 / Accepted: 27 July 2021 / Published: 30 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Nutritional Policies and Education for Health Promotion)
Changes in school meal programs can affect well-being of millions of American children. Since 2014, high-poverty schools and districts nationwide had an option to provide universal free meals (UFM) through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The COVID-19 pandemic expanded UFM to all schools in 2020–2022. Using nationally representative data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study: Kindergarten Class of 2010–2011, we measured CEP effects on school meal participation, attendance, academic achievement, children’s body weight, and household food security. To provide plausibly causal estimates, we leveraged the exogenous variation in the timing of CEP implementation across states and estimated a difference-in-difference model with child random effects, school and year fixed effects. On average, CEP participation increased the probability of children’s eating free school lunch by 9.3% and daily school attendance by 0.24 percentage points (p < 0.01). We find no evidence that, overall, CEP affected body weight, test scores and household food security among elementary schoolchildren. However, CEP benefited children in low-income families by decreasing the probability of being overweight by 3.1% (p < 0.05) and improving reading scores of Hispanic children by 0.055 standard deviations. UFM expansion can particularly benefit at-risk children and help improve equity in educational and health outcomes. View Full-Text
Keywords: child nutrition; universal school meals; schools child nutrition; universal school meals; schools
MDPI and ACS Style

Andreyeva, T.; Sun, X. Universal School Meals in the US: What Can We Learn from the Community Eligibility Provision? Nutrients 2021, 13, 2634. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082634

AMA Style

Andreyeva T, Sun X. Universal School Meals in the US: What Can We Learn from the Community Eligibility Provision? Nutrients. 2021; 13(8):2634. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082634

Chicago/Turabian Style

Andreyeva, Tatiana, and Xiaohan Sun. 2021. "Universal School Meals in the US: What Can We Learn from the Community Eligibility Provision?" Nutrients 13, no. 8: 2634. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082634

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