School milk is back on the menu, with more of a focus on chilled and drinkable this time around. First introduced in 1937, the original milk in schools scheme ended 47 years ago this month.
Free milk was given to New Zealand schoolchildren from 1937. The first Labour government wanted to improve the health of young New Zealanders (and use up surplus milk).
The scheme was a world first. Each day, milk monitors supplied a half-pint (284 millilitres) of milk to each pupil. By 1940, the milk was available to more than 80 per cent of schoolchildren. For a few years during World War II, pupils also received an apple a day.
The scheme lasted until 1967, when the government dropped it because of cost - and because some people were starting to question the benefits of milk.
In the 30 years the scheme ran, thousands of Kiwi kids gulped down their daily ration of milk. In the 1950s school milk bottles had cardboard tops with a small hole for the straw. Not everyone enjoyed it. In the days before fridges and chillers, nothing was worse, some people remember, than the smell and taste of warm milk. Source NZ History Online.
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The Timaru Herald
February 14, 1967
In common with children throughout New Zealand, school children in Timaru will now receive half a pint daily until February 24, when the scheme will be abolished, the managing director of the Timaru Milk Company Ltd (Mr A. A. Solomon) said yesterday.
Timaru children are supplied weekly with 1750 gallons of milk, and the ending of the school milk scheme as announced by the Government on Friday was described by Mr Solomon as a "bitter blow".
"We are up to our eyes in debt with the new milk treatment station and had no indication that the scheme was to end," he said.
Mr Solomon said he did not know what would happen to the 1750 surplus gallons.
"This is a matter for the Milk Board, but I imagine the surplus will go temporarily into cheese and butter," he said.
School children have received half a pint of milk five days a week since approximately 1935.
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The Timaru Herald
February 25, 1967
Dr N C Begg, director of medical services of the Plunket Society, yesterday came out strongly in favour of the milk in schools scheme.
"Whoever pays for it, I hope that our children will continue to have the benefit of school milk," he said in Auckland last night.
"If we need to collect more money for the State, I would prefer to see a tax on cigarettes and beer."
Dr Begg said it was during the age of rapid growth that proteins were most necessary. Although the type of protein found in milk might be a luxury for adults, it was a necessity for children.
"There are many children in New Zealand whose daily intake of milk - but for school milk - would be less than the pint to a pint and a half which is internationally recognised as the optimum.
"Many children who leave home early and return late would be the better for good food during the long school hours. Milk is about the best and cheapest food available."
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The Timaru Herald
February 28, 1967
There will be no waste of milk now that the milk in school scheme has ended - the milk will simply be converted into butter, as it has been in the past during the school holidays. But butter is less profitable than milk.
Under the school milk scheme, each child received half a pint. It takes about 39 half-pints of milk to make one pound of butter. The 39 half pints are worth about 7s 9d, the pound of butter sells at 2s 10d.
Town milk suppliers would therefore suffer a severe blow, said the secretary of the Town Milk Producers Federation (Mr V S Lynskey) yesterday.
"But no doubt there will be negotiations," he said. "We are confident that the Government will not expect town milk producers to carry any greater load than other sections of the community."
The drop in income would not be very severe at first, as the Government had given an assurance that contracts for the supply of milk, entered into in September, would be maintained until August 31.
This means that the Government will continue to pay the normal price for milk formerly supplied to schools, but the milk will be converted into butter.
The loss to milk producers arises because they own two- thirds of the capital invested in milk treatment stations, and the stations will be treating much less milk now the milk in school scheme has ceased.
"It is estimated that the drop in profits from this will reduce the average town milk producer's pay packet by about 10s a week," said Mr Lynskey.
After September 1, contracts will not cover milk in schools. But milk is subsidised to keep down the price to consumers, with the Government paying the full town milk price for a certain number of gallons a year.
Normally the gallonage subsidised rises each year, but now there will be no increase until the natural increase in consumption absorbs the milk formerly supplied to schools. This will take two or three years, during which milk producers will lose another [PndStlg]1 10s a week.
- The Timaru Herald