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New Study on Universal Free School Meals Policy and Childhood Obesity Released by Localio, Knox, Basu, Jones-Smith, and Lindman

Posted: 4/11/2024 (CSDE Research)

CSDE Affiliates Melissa Knox (Economics), Jessica Jones-Smith (Health Systems & Population Health, Epidemiology), Anirban Basu (Health Economics, Health Services), and CSDE Trainee Tom Lindman (Public Policy & Governance) co-authored an article in Pediatrics, titled “Universal Free School Meals Policy and Childhood Obesity“. The study was lead-authored by PhD student, Anna M. Localio (Health Systems & Population Health), senior-authored by Jones-Smith and funded by an R01 from NICHD. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a universal free school meals policy, increases school meal participation by allowing schools in low-income areas to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students; however, its impact on obesity remains uncertain. The objective of this study is to estimate the association of CEP with child obesity. Using a balanced sample of CEP-eligible public schools in California, the authors used a difference-in-differences approach for staggered policy adoption to compare change in obesity prevalence among participating vs. non-participating schools between 2013 and 2019.