School feeding programs (SFPs) are intended to alleviate short-term hunger, improve nutrition and cognition of children, and transfer income to families. The present review explores the impact of SFPs on nutritional, health, and educational outcomes of school-aged children in developing countries. Peer-reviewed journal articles and reviews published in the past 20 years were identified and screened for inclusion. Analysis of the articles revealed relatively consistent positive effects of school feeding in its different modalities on energy intake, micronutrient status, school enrollment, and attendance of the children participating in SFPs compared to non-participants. However, the positive impact of school feeding on growth, cognition, and academic achievement of school-aged children receiving SFPs compared to non-school-fed children was less conclusive. This review identifies research gaps and challenges that need to be addressed in the design and implementation of SFPs and calls for theory-based impact evaluations to strengthen the scientific evidence behind designing, funding, and implementing SFPs.
© 2011 International Life Sciences Institute.