Intergenerational nutrition benefits of India's national school feeding program

Nat Commun. 2021 Jul 12;12(1):4248. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24433-w.


India has the world's highest number of undernourished children and the largest school feeding program, the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme. As school feeding programs target children outside the highest-return "first 1000-days" window, they have not been included in the global agenda to address stunting. School meals benefit education and nutrition in participants, but no studies have examined whether benefits carry over to their children. Using nationally representative data on mothers and their children spanning 1993 to 2016, we assess whether MDM supports intergenerational improvements in child linear growth. Here we report that height-for-age z-score (HAZ) among children born to mothers with full MDM exposure was greater (+0.40 SD) than that in children born to non-exposed mothers. Associations were stronger in low socioeconomic strata and likely work through women's education, fertility, and health service utilization. MDM was associated with 13-32% of the HAZ improvement in India from 2006 to 2016.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Government Programs*
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Interrupted Time Series Analysis
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Religion
  • Schools*
  • Social Class