An Tánaiste Welcomes Plan to Expand Donegal Creameries School Milk Dairy Programme - Balanced Diet and Balanced Lifestyle Central to New Programme

Photograph by Clive Wasson

Pictured with schoolchildren from Killian National School, Inver, Co. Donegal are (L-R) Niall O'Donnell, Sales & Logistics Manager, Donegal Creameries;  Helen Brophy, Chief Executive, National Dairy Council; John Campbell, Club Promotions Officer, Finn Harps Football Club; An Tanaiste & Minister for Enterprise Trade & Employment, Mary Coughlan T.D.;  Shiela Gilroy Collins, Commercial Marketing Manager, Donegal Creameries; Rosaleen O'Haire, Principal, Killian National School.

(Mon, 18 May 2009) The National Dairy Council working with Finn Harps Football Club and Donegal Creameries is introducing a major new initiative to expand the participation of Donegal schools and Donegal children in the School Milk & Dairy Programme, with a strong focus on dairy foods as part of a balanced diet and balanced lifestyle.

An Tánaiste & Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan T.D., welcomed the initiative during a visit to Killian National School at Inver, Co Donegal. Mary Coughlan T.D. complimented Donegal Creameries, the National Dairy Council and the Football Association of Ireland for spearheading a partnership she described as innovative and which “oozes potential and could and should provide tangible health and nutritional benefits for our young people.”

Helping to Combat the Nutritional Gap

Explaining the background, NDC Chief Executive Helen Brophy said that despite our recent Celtic Tiger years, affluence did not necessarily translate into a better diet for many. “Unlike most European countries, Ireland has never had a national school lunch programme. With localised regions of “food poverty” and the growing issue of childhood obesity, good nutrition is clearly not an automatic consequence of modern living,” said Ms Brophy.

Irish research tells us that a significant proportion of teenagers do not have adequate calcium intake and that nearly one third of Irish adults (29%) do not consume the basic “three servings of dairy a day” recommended by the Irish Department of Health & Children for health and wellbeing.

“Ireland has traditionally tended to lag behind Europe in terms of participation in School Milk Programmes – but this now has an even more significant relevance, in terms of influencing dietary habits and helping to alleviate the obesity epidemic which is facing Irish society,” said Ms Brophy.

“Children and teenagers need all the encouragement they can get to switch to healthier snacking habits and to get back to the basics of the Food Pyramid with more regularly balanced diets,” says Helen Brophy.

Donegal Schools - Visits During May

Visits by Finn Harps Football Club already scheduled in Donegal during May include:

- McCartans Central National School, Bundoran

- Raphoe Central National School, Lifford

- Scoil Adhmainn, Letterkenny

- Carrick National School, Donegal

- Killybegs Commons National School, The Commons, Killybegs

- St Patricks National School, Dromcaoin Bealach Fheidh Tir Chonaill , Donegal

- Glencovitt National School, Ballybofey

- St. Mura’s National School, Burnfoot, Lifford

- Woodlands National School, Letterkenny

- SN Baile Nua an Phobail, Newtowncunningham

Learning About Balancing Diets and Healthy Lifestyles

John Campbell, Club Promotions Officer with Donegal’s Finn Harps Football Club explains that children in senior classes (3rd – 6th class) in the schools involved will have a chance for real sporting engagement and discussions about exercise and sports performance; as well as presentations on the benefits of dairy consumption, as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

“The visits to the schools have a combined focus - on nutrition and the role of milk as part of a balanced diet - and on exercise as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle,” says John Campbell.

Parents at the schools involved will receive further information about the school milk and dairy programme in the coming months, which will give them the option to enrol their children for school milk from start of the September term.

Ian Ireland, Chief Executive, Donegal Creameries said that the School Milk & Dairy Programme offers parents the opportunity to help their children get at least one of their “three portions of dairy a day” recommended by the Department of Health – and in a cost effective way. “It’s convenient for parents and gives nutritional value to children at an important stage of their growth and development. Donegal Creameries is delighted to have the opportunity to be involved in this initiative,” said Ian Ireland.

“Cool” Investment in the School Milk & Dairy Programme

1,359 schools with approximately 69,746 pupils are currently participating in Ireland’s School Milk & Dairy Programme. The NDC has already invested considerable resources during 2008 in reviewing the Programme including research and assessment of overseas programmes. The existing School Milk & Dairy Programme was subsequently upgraded so that schools and students already participating will see improved efficiencies and accessibility.

The campaign to expand participation by school and school children sees further investment by the National Dairy Council in 2009 in the school liaison and visits programme, production of curriculum resources and parent information packs. Incentives for schools based on achieving minimum participation levels will include sports equipment and FAI sports packs. €50,000 will be spent nationally on the provision of fridges which will be made available on a “first come” basis, to those schools which achieve a required level of new student participation and who do not currently have adequate refrigeration facilities in place to meet their school milk needs. Cool bags/boxes will also be introduced to retain milk temperature when it is delivered to schools.

“We want to create the right environment to help Irish co-ops and dairies to expand the school milk programme,” said Ms Brophy. “The investment in fridges is significant for us but is intended as a practical support to the programme because we are naturally interested in making sure that children have access to milk, but that the milk is tasting its best – fresh and cool, from the fridge.”


For further press information contact:

For Donegal Creameries plc: Sheila Gilroy Collins - 074-912 1766 -

For FAI: Eoghan Rice - 01-899 9557 -

For Finn Harps FC: John Campbell - 074-913 0070 - or Joe Doherty, Finn Harps Media Officer - 086-210 3230 -

For NDC: Antonina Ni Dhuinn, Progress Communications - 01-276 6117 -