The Power of a Meal. School Feeding and its Educational Effects: Evidence from Colombia

Does a meal make a difference in the educational process? This article presents the results of the evaluation of Colombia’s School Feeding Program (PAE) on educational outcomes. The estimates exploit that the program’s rollout varies over time across municipalities, schools, and grades between the same school. The analysis uses information from seven years of the universe of students attending public schools and the census information of the students enrolled in higher education. Compared to grades without PAE, we find that the dropout rate of grades with PAE is between 10% and 25% lower, and grade repetition is between 7% and 13% lower. We also find that the PAE increases high school completion rates by 39%, improves educational achievement measured with the Saber 11 test by 0.1 standard deviations, and elevates access to higher education by 20%. The program is perceived as an incentive for students to attend school and a mechanism for improving the learning process, resulting in higher human capital.