Working Paper 11/261 - abstract

' School meal crowd out in the 1980s' (PDF, 378kB)

Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder

This paper explores whether state provision of school meals in the 1980s crowded out private provision by examining two UK policy reforms that dramatically reduced school meal take-up. The paper examines whether this affected children’s BMI, using a large, unique, longitudinal dataset of primary school children from 1972 – 1994. This period is characterized by –for some– relative scarcity of foods. The reforms placed further constraints on some families’ already tight food budgets, leading to nutritionists expecting children to become malnourished. The findings however, show no evidence of any such effects. In addition, I find no support for the hypothesis of intra-household food reallocation. As some of those affected are relatively poor, and as sample sizes are often large with fairly precise estimates, the analysis should have been able to detect any effects. With no such evidence, this suggests that the state provision of school meals was crowding out private provision of similarly nutritious packed and home lunches.