Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Milk in schools goes nationwide

Fonterra has committed to nationwide Milk for Schools next year, for what appears to be a cost of up to $50 million annually when all primary schools have the opportunity.

At this stage Fonterra will go it alone, claiming it to be the largest single community investment by a New Zealand company.

Based on the Northland pilot experience of one million 250ml Tetra-Paks of UHT milk distributed around 120 schools for nine months this year, the national demand could be 40 to 50 million for a 40-week school year.

Although Fonterra will reduce the pack size to 180ml, following feedback that young kids are having difficulty finishing their daily milk, about one dollar a pack would be a reasonable cost estimate.

It also has to place leased refrigerators in each school which wants to participate.

Fonterra has declined to provide a budget for the nationwide scheme, saying that it would depend on the number of schools participating, which wouldn’t be known until the end of next year.

Farmer-shareholders are keen to know the cost of Milk for Schools and may well ask that question at Monday’s annual meeting in Hamilton.

Chairman-elect John Wilson has said he views the cost as an investment to address declining milk consumption among NZ children.

Surveys conducted in Northland show a much greater awareness of and appreciation for Fonterra.

The Northland uptake of Milk for Schools appears to be about 60% of its 10,000 primary age children, who are drinking a Fonterra pack every school day.

Nationally, that would extend to about 200,000 children per day for the 40 weeks of school term.

Research conducted by the University of Auckland has shown that children’s milk consumption in the Northland community, both at school and at home, has significantly increased since the pilot began.

“NZ is the largest exporter of dairy products in the world, but at home, we’re not drinking as much milk as we used to,” chief executive Theo Spierings said at the nationwide programme launch last week.

“We want to be the dairy nutrition capital of the world and this starts with our kids.”

Beginning in Southland and rolling up the country, each school will be given the opportunity to “opt-in” to the Milk for Schools programme.

While Fonterra said it was looking for a “nutrition partner” in the programme, in the same way Sanitarium shares the KickStart school breakfast programme, no such partner has yet been announced.

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