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Free-School-Lunch Policies: Impact Evaluation on Student BMI and Mental Health

Dirk Bethmann and Jae Il Cho ()
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Jae Il Cho: Vanderbilt University; Department of Economics; 010-back Calhoun Hall, Nashville, TN, 37240, United States

No 2107, Discussion Paper Series from Institute of Economic Research, Korea University

Abstract: In spring 2015, the South Korean province of South Gyeongsang stopped providing free school lunches to primary and secondary school students while large portions of schools in other provinces continued to provide free lunches at school. After the provincial governmentfaced strong opposition, South Gyeongsang reintroduced the free school lunch program the very next year. Using a difference-in-differences design, we use these policy changes to evaluate their impact on students’ body mass index (BMI) and mental health status. Our results show that abolishing the free-lunch policy had negative effects on students’ BMI as well as mental health status; furthermore the effects reversed once the policy was reintroduced. The results have strong policy implications: introducing free school lunches increases both the physical and mental health of students and as a result, student welfare. Free-lunch policies, therefore, provide simple and inexpensive instruments to improve learning environments

Keywords: free lunch policies; difference in differences design; student health (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C23 I14 I28 I31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-edu and nep-ure
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