17 January 1996

School milk plan to lift nutrition

By Tony McDougal

CALLS for the UK dairy industry to run a national school milk scheme for Britain were made this week by campaigners fighting to stem a slump in child nutrition.

The Schools Milk Campaign demanded the full reinstatement of European school milk subsidies, worth £6m, which were withdrawn from secondary schools by Chancellor Kenneth Clarke in his November 1995 budget.

Campaigners who had the backing of cross-party MPs at the launch of their report The Hunger Within said they wanted the Dairy Industry Federation to oversee the privatisation of the school milk distribution, taking it out of the hands of local education authorities.

Carol Wilson, Dairy Industry Federation legal director, confirmed the DIF has been looking closely at running milk administration and distribution on the Dutch model, where milk companies link up with schools. Discussions have been taking place with the Intervention Board and government," she said.

John Moffitt, Milk Development Council chairman, backed the idea, saying that while local authorities received milk subsidies from the EU Commission, totalling £17.93m in 1995/96, the increased paperwork meant a number of councils were opting out.

Mr Moffitt said the MDC continued to provide up to £1m to the National Dairy Council for nutrition promotion in schools.

Campaign co-founder Stephanie Spiers condemned the rise of TB and rickets in children through poor nutrition and said she wanted to see, by 2000, the introduction of free school milk for all under-fives.

Subsidised milk, she argued, should be available to all youngsters under 19.

Gavin Strang, Labours Shadow farm minister, stressed the Party would reverse the governments decision, saying there were few things more important than ensuring children obtained a healthy diet. "Our children need to be drinking a lot more milk," he added.n