Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Milk for Schools (CP 33)

  Status of the presented material: Milk For Schools is a voluntary parent organisation which was formed in 1994. The charity is a member of the European Anti-Poverty Network, UK Public Health Association and is linked to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisations global school nutrition forum.

  Mission Statement: to educate the public in the field of school based nutrition with particular regard to domestic and European legislation.

  The charity has produced the following reports: Surveys of LEAs: The Sins of Omission; The Hunger Within; By Bread Alone; Under-Milked Woods; Oursels As Others See Us; School Milk in N Ireland; Bones of Contention; Free Nursery Milk in Britain; Suffer the Children; Implementation of the DfES School Nutrition Standards with Regard to the Milk Component: Why Children Today Need School Milk.

  Milk For Schools has participated in the following UN FAO International School Milk Conferences: Prague—Toronto—Stockholm—Windsor.

  Milk For Schools operates a daily cross-sector e-bulletin service which links charities—focus groups—industry—local authorities—farmers—processors etc which provides information on school based nutrition issues. This service is linked to the UN FAO's global e-bulletin focus group.


  Meeting the needs of the next generation through integrated sustainable development policies is a stated government key priority, however Milk For Schools is concerned:

    —  That legislation already in place to reduce child poverty is not being implemented by local education authorities—ie free daily school milk is not being provided for those children entitled to a free school meal in schools where milk schemes are being provided (Education Act 2002).

    —  That school nutrition provision is not monitored by central government in England and Wales—even though the Scottish legislation will call for such monitoring.  That school nutrition provision carries no penalty for falling below standards which leads to widespread abuses.

    —  That DEFRA has not reinstated the withdrawn EU school cheese subsidy.

    —  That DEFRA has not reinstated the withdrawn secondary school milk subsidy.

    —  That the DfES permits the sale of carbonated soda drinks in schools.

    —  That the DfES permits the advertising and sponsorship by junk food manufacturers in schools.

    —  That the DfES healthy schools schemes will certificate a school as being a healthy environment even if there is no milk being provided and if that school peddles junk food in every corridor.

    —  The DfES permits the sale of chocolate bars being displayed alongside canteen cash tills.

    —  That whilst welcoming the fact that the Welsh Assembly has introduced free school milk for key stage one children and now proposes to introduce free school breakfasts in primary schools—the other three regions have not followed this lead—which means it is now a postcode lottery as to what school based nutrition services are on offer and a child in say Rugby or Luton who is impoverished will not have any free school milk or a free school breakfast but a child in Newport or Cardiff will. Nine years ago a research study recommended universal free school breakfast provision for primary schools—(Children Who Have No Breakfast—Landman/Box).

    —  That the DH's cost cutting reform proposals of the Welfare Foods Scheme are a disgrace—they seek to restrict access to the European School Milk Subsidy Scheme for children under the age of five years—this restriction in a scheme which is already failing to reach an estimated three quarters of a million children in day care due to the complexity of the free nursery milk element of the programme.

    —  That the DH has no internet access and no email contact for the Welfare Food Claims Service as operated by the WFRU and does not advertise this scheme on its own website—contrary to government—open government policy.

    —  That the DH free fruit scheme is only available in maintained day-care whilst the majority of day-care is privatised and thus the children not eligible.  That the DH free fruit scheme is only available up to six years—and there is no provision for fruit to continue even if it was paid for by parents.

    —  That the DH two free schemes are not run under the same rules—thus free milk stops at exactly the child's fifth birthday but the free fruit stops at the end of the next academic year. This makes it very difficult for schools to administer both the schemes at the same time and the cut off times annoy parents intensely.


    —  Only 16% of UK children in primary education aged over five years have access to the European School Milk Subsidy Scheme.

    —  Of school milk uptake—the majority is made up of the free under five milk scheme—the rest for those over five is often only available to those children who use the catering service—thus 60% of children even in a milk providing school may be denied access to this European citizenship benefit.

    —  Britain is 84% below the proposed benchmark level for a European School Milk Plan as proposed by the UNFAO Third European School Milk Conference—Sweden Jun 2003-11-22 at primary level—secondary level is worse in England/Wales and N Ireland.

    —  Free nursery milk via the DH Welfare Foods Scheme provision is discretionary upon the provider which has led to low uptake—it depends largely whether day-care is local authority maintained or not whether free milk is being offered—presently the scheme is apparently only reaching two thirds of children so eligible.

    —  Local authorities have three choices—they can provide subsidised milk themselves—they can use an agency to provide the subsidised milk on their behalf—they can do nothing.

    Example—One LEA says if a child drinks a glass of milk—that is a pudding choice and therefore they cannot have a pudding—and the DfES has agreed that such lamentable provision is acceptable under the Nutrition Standards.

    —  Free school milk in special schools and units is discretionary upon local authorities which leads to low provision levels and inequality of provision.

    —  Free milk which should be available to free meals entitled children—when other milk is provided—ie Education Act 2002 is largely ignored south of the Scottish border.

    —  One child in three goes to school without food and probably without fluid—and yet school breakfast schemes have no direct funding route from central government—many have to close due to the fact that those children who need a school breakfast cannot afford to buy one.

    —  3.8 million UK children are living in poverty of which a large percentage is at nutritional risk ie have multiple nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin A; calcium; iron—which can lead to long term health problems such as failure to attain peak bone mass—poor dental health—anaemia—growth rate and the immune system being affected.

    —  School nurses are no longer required to weigh and measure children thus school malnutrition screening is no longer being carried out—this means that there can be no positive intervention such as free milk—the Doctor's Certificates scheme no longer operates which used to identify malnourished and at risk children and instruct intervention provision.  According to the Malnutrition Advisory Group—of those children who are monitored—usually in hospital—15% are found to be suffering from malnutrition.

    —  The Child Tax Credit Scheme fails to give adequate information about who can claim free school meals—local authorities reported to us that the vast majority of families claiming free meals were rejected because although claimants were on very low income and were way below the cut off threshold of £13,230 they were not eligible because they were in low paid work and claiming Working Tax Credit.

    —  School meals—mean different things in different locations—in top provision areas—this can mean at primary level a hot meal and a dessert and a drink—in others it can mean a handout bag containing half a sausage roll and a plastic cup of coloured water with a bag of plain crisps—this is not an exaggeration.

    —  Non-catering areas are on the increase—in these areas the children in receipt of the bags are discriminated against and stigmatised by this type of inadequate provision—families often will not take up the option of a free meal when such a "meal" is a free handout bag as they do not want their children to be humiliated. This opting out adds to the economic burdens of the free meal entitled family.

    —  The BMA has stated that a minimum nutritional standard of school meals should be a safety net for deprived children—yet Save the Children have reported that some children have no food to eat at all at lunchtime—around 5% had no food in the 1980s according to research carried out at the time by the BNF thus things have not improved in 20 years—these children fall through the net because they have no money or food provided from home and yet are not entitled to a free meal. Some schools provided free bread for such children the majority do nothing and the children go hungry

    —  That animal rights extremist propaganda aimed at children as young as four years of age is being permitted in primary schools. The packs are particularly damaging when that material encourages children away from a balanced diet and teach infants that it is wrong to eat meat and wrong to drink milk.

    —    Head teachers have the authority to be able to block free school milk /subsidised school milk and school fruit and school water and school breakfast introduction as some of these "gatekeepers" are known to be doing at present.


  1.  All nursery and schools providing primary education should have to provide a mid morning subsidised milk scheme available for all pupils whose parents wish them to participate—an alternative of clean water should be available—this should be a requirement on schools not an option.

  2.  All such milk should be stored in refrigeration and served below 5 degrees C—un-refrigerated milk should not be permitted.

  3.  Free milk should be provided for all children under the age of five years in day-care—200ml—if they attend for a two hour period—this should not be optional on the provider.

  4.  Free milk should be provided for all children who are entitled to a free school meal on a daily basis—such provision should not be optional (example one LEA has three times refused to provide daily free Income Support milk which would cost £500,000 even though it made £1.2 million in profit from school catering.).

  5.  Free fruit programme should be extended to all children in primary education.

  6.  Free school breakfasts should be universally provided—this would impact on truancy—shoplifting and petty crime—and improve academic achievement. There should be a central government direct funding route

  7.  Free school meals should be provided for all families whose income is below the Child Tax Credit threshold regardless of Working Tax Credit claims.

  8.  Children who present themselves at school having no food and no money should be properly fed by schools regardless of whether they are legally entitled and the home situation should be investigated by the schools welfare officer—it is not acceptable for children to be going hungry all day.

  9.  School meals standards should be externally monitored and there should be high penalties for low standards of provision.

  10.  Non-catering areas should be forced to reinstate a hot school meals service—handout bags should be banned—even better the Councillors who agreed to this form of child abuse should be made to eat the grim contents of the wretched bags in front of their peers.

  11.  Secondary schools should be required to withdraw their vending of sweets and carbonated soda drinks and exchange them for healthier alternatives such as milks/waters/fruit juices.

  12.  Secondary schools should not advertise junk foods or drinks.

  13.  Secondary schools should not permit sponsorship of sporting activities by junk foods companies.

  14.  Secondary schools should be required to install Milk Bars—(currently 500 a year are being installed but this scheme has to negotiate reluctant gatekeepers which slows down progress).

  15.  Special schools should all be required to provide daily free milk for all pupils who wish to participate.

  16.  The Healthy Schools scheme should not be permitted to certificate a school as a healthy environment if that school does not have a clean water scheme and a milk programme and if it happily peddles junk food and drinks. This programme should be externally monitored.

  17.   DEFRA should be required to immediately reinstate the discretionary elements of the EU School Milk Subsidy Scheme for cheese and secondary school milk and should attempt to reinstate the lost catering milk subsidy which would be highly beneficial to those schools providing free breakfasts.

  18.  DEFRA should be required to demonstrate how a School Milk Plan for Britain will operate—ie to be in accordance with the recommendation for a School Milk Plan for Europe—and to show how school milk support fits into its sustainable development policy for regeneration of the rural community and how it envisages expansion of the school milk market as a key constituent of a plan to reduce the effects of the CAP reform on the dairy sector and to bring Britain up to the recommended European standard for school milk supply.

  19.  School caterers should be encouraged to fully utilise the EU yogurt subsidy which is hardly being used at all presently.

  20.  In schools where school milk is being made available parents should be encouraged to allow their children to participate and have the scheme promoted to them—as under the terms of the School Milk Plan for Europe.

  21.  Head teachers should not be able to block improvements to school nutrition such as subsidised milk and fruit schemes.

  22.  Animal Rights extremist propaganda should not be permitted in primary schools. Children whilst in the care of school governors should not be exploited and manipulated by extremist group supporters who are seeking to encourage children away from a balanced diet on to a non-dairy and non-meat regime contrary to the DH's balanced diet recommendations. There is no point in having recommendations if teachers are allowed to teach off-message.

  23.  To make the maximum impact, of course, refrigerated daily free school milk for all children should be reinstated and Britain should adopt the Scandinavian system of substantial healthy free school meals—breakfasts and lunches—in all schools.

Stephanie Spiers

November 2003

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