How Effective are Food for Education Programs? A Critical Assessment of the Evidence from Developing Countries

Our interpretation of the empirical evidence reviewed here leads to several recommendations on the design and use of FFE programs. Effects tend to be larger where schooling participation is low or where there are significant nutritional de- ficiencies. This fact argues for doing an assessment of school needs in target areas before starting an FFE program. Such an evaluation would improve targeting and allow FFE program components, such as the nutrient composition and quantity of food, to be tailored to local needs. Also, program administrators  should be willing to consider complementary programs to improve school quality. Learning effects cannot be achieved if the instruction  is of little value. Poor school quality lowers the benefits of participation and discourages attendance. Though much more evi- dence is needed, results from field experiments in the Philippines suggest that the cost of alternative programs to improve school quality may be only a fraction of the per child cost of an FFE program. Coordinated programs that combine FFE with improvements in school quality may be much more effective.

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