An unexpected perk of free school lunch: lower grocery prices in the surrounding community

When a school makes lunch free for all students, the decision may lower food costs for the entire surrounding community, according to a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economics Research examined by Quartz. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, analyzed the relationship between school meal policies, local food prices, and shopping behaviors over four years. What researchers found was that, in general, when schools stopped charging kids for lunch, families made fewer trips to the grocery store. In response, supermarkets, particularly larger chains, appeared to lower prices, in some cases by as much as 10 percent. Perhaps a more interesting finding is this: Free school breakfast and lunch is equivalent to a monthly wealth transfer of $82.93 per child, which can slash a family’s grocery costs by up to a quarter, depending on their budget.