Pandemic causes pause on school milk provision

Wales leads the way on school and nursery milk provision for children in the UK, according to new research that also found that covid-19 continues to have a negative impact – millions of children are still missing out on free or subsidised milk in schools and nurseries following the pandemic. 

The research, from the School and Nursery Milk Alliance (SNMA) and published for World School Milk Day 2022 (28th September), used the latest available data from the Department of Health and Social Care and the Rural Payments Agency to show that as an average per population, Wales provided 38 portions of milk per primary school-age child per year. England averaged just 13 portions. 

Wales’s success isn’t surprising – the country provides free milk for all children in key stage one, rather than just subsidising it. 

The research also showed that the overall uptake of free and subsidised milk is “significantly lower” than before the pandemic. Many schools and nurseries temporarily opted out of the scheme during the worst of the lockdowns and “far too many are yet to re-start their milk schemes” the alliance said.

School food standards require lower fat milk or lactose-reduced milk should be available to drink at least once a day during school hours. 

The EU also subsidises dairy milk for schoolchildren, but its scheme is being reviewed. A petition (set up by Oatly, ProVeg International, Dier&Recht, and others) is calling on the European Commission to add calcium-fortified plant-based milk to the school scheme. This would provide children with choice and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the petition reads.

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