Study: Healthier lunches lead to higher test scores.

By Andrew Pillow

School lunches are never far from education debates. Rather it’s an argument over funding or wrap around services, school lunch has always been a topic of discussion. But do lunches have an impact on academic achievement? According to a recent study they just might.

A study out of the University of California, Berkeley has found that schools with healthier lunches have better academic achievement:

“Students at schools that contract with a healthy school lunch vendor score higher on CA state achievement tests, with larger test score increases for students who are eligible for reduced price or free school lunches.”

The obvious rebuttal to this finding is that the use of healthier vendors is simply a benefit of going to a better school and that the researchers have cause and effect mixed up. However, the researchers examined schools that switched vendors too:

“Using difference-in-differences type specifications, we find that switching to a healthy meal vendor is associated with a 0.031 standard deviation increase in test scores. While this effect is modest in magnitude, the relatively low cost of healthy vendors when compared to in-house meal preparation makes this a very cost-effective way to raise test scores.”

Ironically the economists that studied this topic did not find any evidence of a decrease in obesity rates or decreases in the number of meals consumed… the topics usually broached when debating school lunches.

Read the full study here.


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.