Introducing school meals in Greece
By Manos Matsaganis
The current crisis seems to be affecting children worse than other population groups. We estimate the proportion of persons aged below 17 living in absolute (not just relative) poverty in 2012 at 17%. This amounts to a social emergency which threatens to set in motion a vicious circle: poverty leading to malnourishment, then to under-achievement at school, then to low skills, then to low pay, then back to poverty. We believe that public policy can break this vicious circle, and thereby avert a significant damage to human capital. Society can protect children (especially the poorest) from the adverse effects of the crisis at a modest cost, by ensuring all children have access to adequate and nutritious meals at school. This paper briefly reviews the experience of school meals in other countries; it then presents the outline of a plan for introducing school meals in Greece, together with a rough estimate of the costs involved (school meals would be free for poor children, but a moderate income-related fee would be charged to non-poor children). The paper concludes with a discussion of outstanding issues, and with some hints on how policy dilemmas might be resolved.
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