Supermarkets asked to help with milk in schools

Margaret Thatcher was criticised for abolishing free milk in schools

Margaret Thatcher was criticised for abolishing free milk in schools

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Daily break will boost learning and help dairy industry, says MSP

AN MSP is campaigning for the return of the free milk break in Scottish primary schools – decades after “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” abolished the scheme for seven to 11-year-olds.

Thompson: daily dairy culture. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Thompson: daily dairy culture. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The SNP’s Dave Thompson believes bringing milk or other dairy products such as yoghurt back to schools would improve children’s nutrition, particularly in poverty-hit areas.

He has lobbied his colleague, the cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment Richard Lochhead, for free dairy breaks to be re-introduced into Scottish schools, and has received a favourable response so far.

Thompson has now written to seven big supermarket retailers asking for a financial contribution to the proposal.

He said: “I spoke with the cabinet secretary earlier in the month about introducing dairy breaks for primary school kids and he seemed receptive to the proposal. I have very recently contacted the minister for public health, Maureen Watt, asking for her support.

“I have also sent letters to the big supermarket retailers asking if this is an idea that they would consider contributing towards and I look forward to hearing their responses.”

He added: “If youngsters are introduced to good-quality foods, they are much more likely to enjoy such foods for the rest of their lives.

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“I remember well when I was at school, a long time ago, that we had daily milk. It was nutritious and did us the world of good.

“Now, against the backdrop of relentless austerity and increased poverty, we need to think of ways to re-introduce the daily dairy culture back into our schools for the benefit of our children.

“We could make the milk attractive. It could be flavoured, or we could have yoghurt with fruit, and of course cheese. I am sure this would help children physically and mentally, and it would help the dairy industry.”

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher brought about the demise of milk from schools when education secretary in 1970.

During her first months in office she attracted public attention as a result of the administration’s attempts to cut spending.

She imposed public expenditure cuts on the state education system, resulting in the abolition of free milk for schoolchildren aged seven to 11.

But the move earned her the moniker “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher”.

Over the years, cost-saving measures have seen milk disappear from schools, although a number still operate a subsidised system.

Thompson, who represents Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, now wishes to see milk return to schools – for free.

He added: “Many schools have breakfast clubs, because some children come to school without breakfast and it is not good for their ability to learn if they come to school with an empty stomach.

“Therefore, providing a mid-morning milk or yoghurt break for kids would help them and give them more nutrition at that time.

“An initiative such as this would boost the sales of milk and give young folk the chance to develop a taste for dairy products, setting the tone for the eating and drinking habits they will take into their adult lives, and will help to enhance the health of the nation as a whole.’’

The Trussell Trust Charity reports that 22,387 children in Scotland received support from food banks between 2013 and 2014.

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