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Iowa State study finds health value to children of National School Lunch Program
Date:11/10/2011

AMES, Iowa -- The federally funded National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides free and reduced-price meals to more than 31 million children every school day, according to its website (http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/). And a recent study by current and former Iowa State University researchers confirmed that school lunches improve the health outcomes of children who reside in low-income households.

The researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,700 NSLP children (ages 6-17) taken from the 2001-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their study finds that the NSLP reduces the prevalence of food insecurity -- a situation in which an individual cannot access enough food to sustain active, healthy living -- by 3.8 percent, poor general health by 29 percent, and the rate of obesity by at least 17 percent in its participants.

"Our first objective was to try to provide policymakers with the best estimates of the effects of the NSLP on the well-being of children," said Brent Kreider, an Iowa State professor of economics who collaborated on the study. "We think our results provide good evidence that the school lunch program is having generally beneficial effects on children's health outcomes. Of course we can't say that all children benefit, but it appears from our results that the prevalence of food insecurity, poor general health and obesity would be higher without the program."

Craig Gundersen, a former ISU professor of human development and family studies who now is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois; and John Pepper, an associate professor of economics at the University of Virginia, also collaborated on the research. The study was posted online by the Journal of Econometrics (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304407611001205) and will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal.

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Contact: Mike Ferlazzo
ferlazzo@iastate.edu
515-294-8986
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert

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