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«Healthy school meals and Educational Outcomes Michèle Belot Jonathan James Department of Economics Nuffield College University of Essex University ...»

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As we have mentioned earlier, the campaign lead to substantial increases in costs in terms of retraining the cooking staff, refurbishing kitchens, and even the food costs have increased slightly as well. By September 2007, the council of Greenwich alone had invested £1.2 million in the campaign. About 28,000 school children in the county benefited from the healthy school meals, thus, the cost per pupil was around £43. The largest proportion of these costs was one-off costs (refurbishing kitchens, retraining staff), such that in the long-term, the long-term cost per pupil should be substantially lower. There is therefore no doubt that the campaign provides large benefits in comparison to its costs per pupil.

5. Conclusion

This paper exploits the unique features of the “Jamie Oliver Feed Me Better” campaign, lead in 2004 in the UK, to evaluate the impact of healthy school meals on educational outcomes. The campaign introduced drastic changes in the menus of meals served in schools of one borough – Greenwich – and banned junk food in those schools. Since the meals were introduced in one Local Education Area only at first, we can use a difference in differences approach to identify the causal effect of healthy meals on educational performance.

Using pupil and school level data, we evaluate the effect of the reform on educational performance in primary schools; more precisely we compare Key Stage 2 test scores results before and after the campaign, using neighbouring local education areas as a control group. We identify positive effects of the “Feed me Better Campaign” on Key Stage 2 test scores in English and Sciences. The effects are quite large: Our estimates show that the campaign increased the percentage of pupils reaching level 4 by 4.5 percentage points in English, and the percentage of pupils reaching level 5 by 6 percentage points in Science. We also find that authorised absences (which are likely to be linked to sickness) drop by 15% on average. These effects are particularly noteworthy since they only capture direct and relatively short-term effects of improvement in children’s diet on educational achievements. One could have expected that changing diet habits is a long and difficult process, which would possibly only have effects after a long time, effects that would be hard to measure.

It is worth pointing out that the campaign did not particularly affect the “free school meal” children. Indeed, we do not find significant changes in the performance of those children, despite the fact that we find no significant changes in take-up rates. This is worth pointing at, in the light of using school meals as a way of reducing disparities in diet across children.

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Lawlor, (2009), “The Effect of Child Weight on Academic Performance: Evidence using Genetic Markers”, Working Paper Whitmore, D. (2005), Do School Lunches Contribute to Childhood Obesity, Harris School Working Paper Series 05.13.


Figure 1: Local education authorities in the London area Figure 2: Average IDACI Scores

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Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index shows the percentage of children in each SOA (Super Output Area) that live in families that are income deprived(ie, in receipt of Income Support, Income based Jobseeker's Allowance, Working Families' Tax Credit or Disabled Person's Tax Credit below a given threshold), DCSF)

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APPENDIX: Sample of menus Before the Jamie Oliver Campaign Mains: burgers and chips; sausage rolls; fish fingers; turkey drummers; chicken dinosaurs Desserts: sponge pudding and custard; milk shake and home made biscuit; fruit salad Example of weekly menus introduced with the Jamie Oliver campaign source: www.greenwich.gov.uk Appendix B - Robustness checks for results regarding Key Stage 2 tests

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