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School feeding: Outcomes and costs

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Background. School-feeding programs are popular development assistance programs in developing countries but have previously had few sound, empirical analyses of their effectiveness and costs.

Objective. The goals of this study were to provide a realistic estimate of the costs of school feeding and combine these estimates with outcome information to obtain the cost per outcome.

Methods. Cost studies were conducted in three African countries by reviewing school-feeding costs provided by the World Food Programme and interviewing stakeholders in ministries of education and in the community. In another African country, existing costing information was used. To compare across the countries, costs were standardized for a 200-day school year, a 700-kcal per day ration, and when children were not fed. To obtain cost per outcome data, outcomes were obtained from a review of school-feeding studies.

Results. The cost of school feeding ranged from US$28 to US$63 per child per year (weighted mean cost of US$40 per child per year). The cost for an extra day of attendance was less than US$10 per student, while the cost per extra kilogram of weight ranged from US$38 to US$252. Costs for cognitive outcomes were similarly variable.

Conclusions. This analysis estimates a higher average cost but a narrower range of costs when compared with previous estimates, reflecting the greater precision of the current analyses. The cost per outcome was high, but this analysis does not capture the full range of outcomes (e. g., social protection, educational achievement) potentially derived from school feeding.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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