Food for Thought?: Experimental Evidence on the Learning Impacts of a Large-Scale School Feeding Program in Ghana

IFPRI Discussion Paper 1782

43 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2019

See all articles by Elisabetta Aurino

Elisabetta Aurino

Imperial College London

Aulo Gelli

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Clement Adamba

University of Ghana

Isaac Osei-Akoto

University of Ghana - Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER)

Harold Alderman

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: December 12, 2018

Abstract

There is very limited experimental evidence of the impact of large-scale, government-led school meals programs on child educational achievements in Sub-Saharan Africa. We address this gap by reporting treatment effects from a nationwide randomized trial of the Government of Ghana’s school feeding program (GSFP) on children’s math and literacy, cognition (problem-solving ability and working memory), and composite scores of overall attainments. Based on the government’s plans to re-target and scale up the GSFP, food insecure schools and related communities across the country were randomly assigned to school feeding. After two years of implementation, program availability led to moderate increases in test scores for the average pupil in school catchment areas, ranging between 0.12 and 0.16 standard deviations. Analysis focusing on per-protocol population subgroups unveiled substantial heterogeneity: school feeding led to remarkable learning and cognitive gains for girls, poorest children, and children from the northern regions. Program effects were at least twice as large as for the average child. Increases in enrollment, grade attainment, and shifts in time use toward schooling time constituted potential mechanisms for impact. We conclude the program combined social protection with equitable human capital accumulation, thus contributing to the imperative of “learning for all” set in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Keywords: Ghana, West Africa, Africa South of Sahara, Africa, Child Feeding, School Meals, Learning, Cognition, Field Experimentation, Primary Education, Randomized Controlled Trials

JEL Classification: I21, I24, I25, O12

Suggested Citation

Aurino, Elisabetta and Gelli, Aulo and Adamba, Clement and Osei-Akoto, Isaac and Alderman, Harold, Food for Thought?: Experimental Evidence on the Learning Impacts of a Large-Scale School Feeding Program in Ghana (December 12, 2018). IFPRI Discussion Paper 1782. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3305338

Elisabetta Aurino (Contact Author)

Imperial College London

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London, Greater London SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Aulo Gelli

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Clement Adamba

University of Ghana

PO Box 25
Legon, Accra LG
Ghana

Isaac Osei-Akoto

University of Ghana - Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) ( email )

P.O BOX LG 74
Legon
Ghana

Harold Alderman

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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