World School Milk Day -Thousands of Children Receive Free School Milk Today

School Milk – Delivering a small pack of value & goodness

Pictured celebrating World School Milk Day at Scoil Chaitriona , Baggot Street, Dublin 2 were (L-R):  Rebecca Kenny, Anthony Downes and Pamela Tawengwa, all aged 6, with Dr. Catherine Logan, Nutrition Manager, National Dairy Council.

Picture by Shane O'Neill.

Wednesday 28th September 2011 is World School Milk Day, designated by the UN (United Nations) Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO). At home, over 40,000 primary school children in the Republic of Ireland will receive their school milk free today, in an initiative by National Dairy Council member co-ops to celebrate the day.

“Children normally receiving the carton of milk every day in school as part of the school milk programme, are getting a small carton which is packed with great value as well as goodness,” according to Dr. Catherine Logan, Nutrition Manager with The National Dairy Council.

Dr Logan explains that a portion of milk (1/3 pint) provides a source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iodine and vitamins B2 and B12, which means that milk can provide real nutritional ‘value’, as an affordable source of nutrition.

The nutrients calcium, phosphorus and protein naturally available in milk are needed by children for the growth and development of bones. These nutrients also help to maintain normal bones, while calcium and phosphorus are noted for their role in the maintenance of teeth and protein contributes to the growth or maintenance of muscle mass.

Milk is also an important source of Vitamin B12 which has numerous functions in the body, including contribution to normal red blood cell formation, to normal neurological and psychological functions and can contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

“Dairy products are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet – and are particularly important for growing children and teenagers,” says Dr. Logan. “Yet a considerable proportion of Irish children and teenagers are known to have inadequate intake of certain nutrients such as calcium and vitamins A & D.”

Nutritional Gaps

“There are a number of nutritional shortfalls in the Irish diet which we need to address. Increasing the consumption of foods which provides a source of a range of nutrients within a limited energy content can help ” says Dr. Logan.

“In the context of primary school children of 5-12 years of age, we know from the IUNA National Children's Food Survey, that 37% of Irish girls and 28% of boys have insufficient calcium intakes,” says Dr. Logan.

“Inadequate intakes of other nutrients were also noted amongst a significant proportion of this population,” says Dr. Logan. She explains that within the same 5-12 year old age group of Irish children, 26% of girls and 22% of boys have insufficient intakes of Vitamin A, 36% of girls and 21% of boys have insufficient intakes of Folate, 13% of girls and 8% of boys have insufficient intakes of Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and 39% of girls and 25% of boys have insufficient intakes of zinc.

The Irish Department of Health’s Food Pyramid recommends “3 portions of dairy per day” as part of a balanced diet for children and adults, one portion being 1 oz or 28 g of hard cheese (about the size of a matchbox); a 1/3 of a pint glass of milk; or one carton of yogurt.

Where schools participate in the school milk programme, the children get at least one portion of dairy a day in school, in a way which is cost effective for parents, because it is subsidised. This can helps to bridge a number of ‘nutritional gaps’.

Teenagers Have Greater Nutritional Needs

The IUNA National Teen’s Food Survey tells us that 42% of Irish teenage girls and 23% of Irish teenage boys have insufficient calcium intakes, with other insufficient intakes also reported e.g. Vitamin A, and Folate, particularly among females.

This is a particularly worrying trend because the teenage years is recognised as a major time of growth and of bone development with increased calcium intake required to support this phase. In fact, teenagers should be consuming 5 servings of dairy a day. In response to these trends, secondary schools in the Republic of Ireland now also have the option to participate in the School Milk and Dairy Programme.

Dr. Catherine Logan gives the example of a typical glass (189 ml/195 g) of semi skimmed milk which provides

  • 29% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of calcium for a child aged 1-10 years of age; and 20% of the calcium RDA for a child aged 11-17 years.
  • 15% potassium RDA for 7-10 year olds; and 10% for 11-17 year olds
  • 39% Vitamin B2 RDA for 7-10 year olds; 33% RDA for boys and 39% RDA for girls, aged 11-14 years

Children & Teenagers Need Encouragement

A survey reported by the The Obesity Taskforce found that 37% of Irish children (ages 10-17) consume fizzy drinks at least once daily.

“Children and teenagers need all the encouragement they can get to switch to healthy lifestyles including healthy snacking habits and to actually comply with a healthy balanced diet. They need to realise food choices in line with the food pyramid recommendations, can be very enjoyable and refreshing,” says Dr. Logan. “Parents and environments like schools have a role to play in making sure that choices are available at meal times which include drinks like water and milk, served fresh and at the right temperature.”

Over 66,000 Children

The State normally funds free school milk to participating disadvantaged primary schools (approximately 270 schools). The delivery of free school milk today by NDC members to primary schools who are in the School Milk & Dairy Programme, means that a combined total of approximately 66,000 children throughout the country have been provided with one portion of their recommended ‘three dairy a day’ free of charge today.

The initiative was co-ordinated with the support of NDC member dairies including:

Arrabawn Co-op, Centenary Thurles Co-op, Clona Dairy Products, Connacht Gold Co-op, Donegal Creameries, Glanbia Consumer Foods, Kerry, Lee Strand Milk, North Cork Co-op, Wexford Creamery

Further information about school milk and updates available from or or


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Antonina Ni Dhuinn, Progress Communications | 01-276 6117 | |

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