7 June 2002

Party politics mean less milk

By Mike Stones

MILLIONS of children are denied the health benefits of free and subsidised school milk because the government fears a barrage of Press criticism if it made supplies more available, claim campaigners.

After working for eight years to promote school milk, Stephanie Spiers, chair of the campaign group Milk for Schools, claims to know why government inaction is jeopardising youngsters health. "The government fears that if it acted to improve school milk consumption, it would be accused by the Right Wing Press of advancing the nanny state," Ms Spiers told FARMERS WEEKLY.

"Its a crying shame that 90% of children between five and 11 do not receive the school milk that they should. Their health is being damaged because people do not want to be accused of being nanny politicians."

The government should do far more to persuade local authorities to make milk available in schools, argued Ms Spiers. "All it would take is a letter from health minister Estelle Morris to underline its importance."

But at present, Britains youngsters suffer a milk postcode lottery. "It depends where you live as to what is on offer. Some local authorities do not provide a playtime milk service, some have devolved milk supply to agencies and some operate their own schemes."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills denied that government fear of press criticism was blocking consumption of school milk. "Press reaction is not a factor. The government has done what it can to increase milk consumption and it cannot do more. Schools say they want less regulations not more," said the spokeswoman.

&#8226 FARMERS WEEKLY has joined forces with milk processor Dairy Crest to campaign to make more subsidised milk available in schools. To find out how you can back the campaign, win cash prizes, see our Farmlife Section. &#42

Milk barr…is the government blocking milk supplies to stave off Press criticism.