Promising effects of Mid-Day Meal program

The mid-day meal program, often termed as populist is one of the widely criticized government programs. The reasons range from ‘MDM is a populist policy’, ‘leakages in MDM’ to ‘MDM wasting teachers’ time’.

Earlier, some studies have suggested that MDM didn’t have effect on attendance. However, two recent studies suggest promising effects of MDM on both nutrition and learning outcomes.

On Nutrition: Using a clever research design of considering students whose enrollment in schools differs by an year but are born in adjacent months (children born in Dec-2001 are enrolled in 2006–07 while those born in Jan, 2002 are enrolled in 2007–08), this study finds that
School meals at age five compensated entirely for malnourishment from droughts in early childhood
Midday meals had an effect both on the weight and the height of children who received these meals. In particular, the effect was largest for children whose nutrition had suffered as a result of droughts in early childhood.
On Learning Outcomes: Using ASER data set and exploiting the staggered roll out of the program, a new study finds that
exposure to midday meals for the five-year duration of primary school increases test scores by 0.17 standard deviations (18% relative to children with the less than a year of exposure)
It is important to note that these effects are after taking the gaps in the program implementation into account. If only we could administer some of the policies well!

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