Do Healthy Lunches Improve Test Scores? | Weatherhead

Do Healthy Lunches Improve Test Scores?

Posted 6.9.2017

Do Healthy Lunches Improve Test Scores?

Research co-authored by Justin Gallagher, assistant professor of economics, sets out to determine whether healthier school lunches affect student test scores.

The research is titled "School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance." The study covered five academic years (2008-2009 to 2012-2013) and includes all public schools in the state of California that report test scores (about 9,700 schools, mostly elementary and middle schools).

From a Brookings post written by the authors:

We find that in years when a school contracts with a healthy lunch company, students at the school score better on end-of-year academic tests. On average, student test scores are 0.03 to 0.04 standard deviations higher (about 4 percentile points). Not only that, the test score increases are about 40 percent larger for students who qualify for reduced-price or free school lunches. These students are also the ones who are most likely to eat the school lunches.

The research has garnered media attention from publications including The Atlantic, The New York Times, The NBER Digest, and WGBH's Innovation Hub.

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