Fonterra to offer free milk to all primaries

Palmerston North school principals are thrilled Fonterra has decided to give out milk to all primary schools. The company will be rolling it out from the beginning of next year - restoring a Kiwi institution from yesteryear.

All 350,000 primary school children throughout New Zealand will be offered a free serving of milk every school day, as part of the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme.

The dairy co-operative's chief executive, Theo Spierings, said that after trialling the school milk programme in Northland, Fonterra had decided to extend it to the whole country from next year.

Russell St School principal David Reardon said it was good a corporation was interested in the welfare of children.

"I know there's a reward for Fonterra, in that it encourages students to drink milk as adults, but there will be a significant cost [to Fonterra] even of just delivering the milk to schools.

"I hope this encourages the nation back to milk and water - back to basics, and it may turn back some of the loss to fizzy drink, which has been cheaper, and fast food."

And Robyn Tootill, principal of Somerset Cres School in Palmerston North, said the programme was an excellent way to promote a healthy food. She, too, hoped children would eat and drink less of the unhealthy options.

Fonterra said it was committed to Milk for Schools because it believes the milk will make a lasting difference to the health of New Zealand's children.

"We want Kiwis to grow up drinking milk, because it's good for them, and we are proud that this programme will give every primary school kid the chance to enjoy this nutritious product," Mr Spierings said.

Research conducted by the University of Auckland has shown that children's milk consumption in the Northland community, both at school and at home, has increased significantly since the pilot programme of putting milk in schools began.

"The Northland pilot allowed us to test our systems. We learnt some valuable lessons and got great feedback from schools in the area. We can now move forward with confidence the programme is a winner."

Mr Spierings said putting milk in all primary schools would be a huge undertaking and Fonterra would be rolling it out town by town.

"We will continue with Northland, and launch in Southland in the first term next year, moving through the country during the year. We expect to have all schools who wish to take part on board by term 1, 2014."

Manawatu Standard