The effect of free meals on suspension rates

Can providing free breakfast and lunch improve student discipline? A new working paper by Nora Gordon and Krista Ruffini suggests that it might. Their study of schools that provided breakfast and lunch to all students under the Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 found modest reductions in suspension rates at elementary and middle schools that participated in the program.

The drops were greatest in schools located in food-insecure areas. Poverty rates, racial/ethnic composition, and urban or rural location did not appear to affect the degree of change.

Source: Gordon, N.E. & Ruffini, K.J. (2018, September). School nutrition and student discipline: Effects of schoolwide free meals (NBER Working Paper No. 24986). Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research.

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