Going universal. The impact of free school lunches on child body weight outcomes
We study the impact on young children’s bodyweight of switching from means-tested to universal provision of nutritious free school meals in England, exploiting identifying variation in the timing of weight measurements. We show that exposure to high quality universal free lunches increases healthy weight prevalence and reduces obesity prevalence and BMI by the end of the first year of school. The effect seems driven by substitution of home-produced lunches with school meals among children not eligible under means-testing, with little evidence of income or parental labour supply effects. This suggests universal provision can improve the diets of relatively well-off pupils.
Journal of Public Economics Plus
Open Access; Under a Creative Commons license