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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Free school milk back on the menu
milk bottles
Free milk may be available once again for schoolchildren
Councils will be able to reintroduce free milk for school children in Scotland under plans in a new bill, the Scottish Executive has claimed.

The Schools Health Promotion and Nutrition Bill will give councils the power to provide food and drink to pupils other than at lunchtime.

But campaigners said free milk was not guaranteed as no extra funding was being made available to cover costs.

Free milk was axed in 1971 by then Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher.

At the time the former prime minister, who dropped the milk provision for youngsters aged seven to 11, earned the nickname "Milk Snatcher".

Without the funding there is absolutely no guarantee that anything will be different and therefore this is a missed opportunity
Stephanie Spiers, Chair of the Trustees for the Milk For Schools

The new bill requires councils to ensure that all food and drink provided in their schools meet "nutritional requirements".

In addition, the document also sets out to ensure that pupils who receive free lunches are no longer identifiable to their peers.

An executive spokesperson acknowledged that the new bill would not place an obligation on local authorities to provide free milk but instead gave them the power to do so if they wished.

He said: "The legislation aims to make local councils actively promote healthy eating in Scottish schools and combat obesity."

Empowerment

In response to the bill, Stephanie Spiers, chair of the Trustees for the Milk For Schools campaign group, called the plans a "missed opportunity".

She said: "It's an empowerment to councils to provide milk free of charge but the truth is local authorities will have to do so out of their own budgets.

"Without the funding there is absolutely no guarantee that anything will be different and therefore this is a missed opportunity."

All funding for the changes proposed in the bill will have to be found from existing budgets and from the executive's Hungry for Success programme, which will have received 120m by 2008/9.

Cosla, the group representing local authorities, welcomed the plans but said parts of the bill were unnecessary as progress had already been made by individual councils.

Spokesman for the organisation, David Kennedy, said: "If 'Hungry For Success' was the main course, this bill is the dessert.

"Some local authorities have already exceeded the aim of raising nutritional standards for school children."

Nutritionists say the calcium contained in milk is necessary for strong bones and teeth and can prevent osteoporosis in later life for women.


SEE ALSO
School milk subsidies questioned
04 Jan 06 |  Education
Vending machine ban 'simplistic'
11 Nov 05 |  Education
School's healthy vending struggle
28 Sep 05 |  Education
Cookery lessons back in schools
03 Oct 05 |  Education

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