Analysis of outcomes and costs for school feeding programs

October 2009

In a study to be published in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin in October, researchers calculated the per-child cost of school feeding programs in Lesotho, Kenya, The Gambia, and Malawi. By combining their data with a recent meta-analysis on the impact of school feeding on attendance, growth, and cognitive ability, the study also estimated the cost for achieving improvements in those outcomes. The authors found that the average cost of providing 700 kcal for 200 days was $40 per child, ranging from $28 in Kenya to $63 in Lesotho. That is double the World Food Program’s most recent cost estimate of $20 per child, which may be attributable to this study’s inclusion of costs to local governments and communities, as well as consideration of food pipeline breaks. The cost for a child achieving an additional centimeter of height or kilogram of weight was the highest, ranging from $112 to $252. An additional day of attendance cost between $4.70 and $15.80. Other school health interventions, such as deworming, iron supplementation, and malaria prevention, have been estimated to cost less than $4 per year. However, the authors note that their costing analysis may be more complete than those done for other health interventions. Moreover, the cost of school feeding programs could be reduced by purchasing locally grown commodities, which would require far less expenditure for transport and handling, as food accounted for more than 50% of overall costs in every country.

School feeding: Outcomes and costs