Dairy breakfasts are building blocks for life – Foodbank NSW/ACT & Dairy Connect support call by International Dairy Federation

Advocacy groups Dairy Connect and Foodbank NSW/ACT today applauded a call this week for national governments to fund free school breakfasts as a global health initiative to set-up school children for healthy lives.

CEO Shaughn Morgan said the call made at the International Dairy Federation (IDF) World Dairy Summit being held in South Korea echoed a proposed Australian free breakfast initiative suggested by Dairy Connect and Foodbank NSW/ACT in September last year.

IDF President Dr Judith Bryans told the IDF World Dairy Summit that school milk programmes provide children around the world with the nutrients they need to help them grow and develop healthily.

“They also support the development of good eating habits which will last a lifetime,” she said.

“If you don’t have enough food in your belly or good nutrition to keep you healthy, it’s hard to concentrate on your education and make the most of school.

“We must ensure that children are well nourished. All children around the world, whether rich or poor deserve to have access to enough food so they don’t go hungry.

“They also deserve to have foods that are nutritious, culturally acceptable and affordable.”

In a joint statement last September, Shaughn Morgan and Foodbank NSW/ACT executive general manager John Robertson said there were around 700 disadvantaged schools in NSW and the ACT.

The two said health benefits for generations of school children had been trashed when the old free school milk program had been axed during the 1970s.

“Ironically the old scheme - which was first commenced by the Menzies Government in 1950 - was scrapped because of cost and what was then described as ‘lack of evidence of health benefits’,” they said.

“Since the 1980s, however, concern has steadily grown year-on-year among health professionals about the impact carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks high in sugar were having on successive generations.”

John Robertson said one in six students were arriving at school hungry and the government had a critical role to play in supporting them. Only this week the NSW Legislative Council Committee Inquiry into fresh food pricing, chaired by the Revd the Hon Fred Nile, recommended:

“That the NSW Department of Education and NSW Ministry of Health, in liaison with Foodbank NSW and ACT and other non government stakeholders, introduce an evidence based school breakfast program across New South Wales that targets schools with a high proportion of children from socially disadvantaged families, by the end of 2019.” (recommendation 11)

Judith Bryans said in South Korea that school milk programs worldwide were important in delivering nutrients to support children’s diets as they grew.

“Milk provides children with a range of nutrients including calcium, good quality protein and an array of vitamins and minerals needed for development,” she said.

“We should also recognise that nutrients in milk come as a package known as the milk matrix. That matrix works like a symphony orchestra of nutrients which work synergistically to provide health benefits.”

Dr Bryans said that dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese, were important vehicles for delivering nutrition to children.

To better understand the status of School Milk programmes worldwide, Dr Bryans said the IDF Standing Committee on Nutrition and Health would conduct a new survey over 2018-19 with results to be presented at next year’s IDF World Dairy Summit in Turkey.

Dr Bryans said that, internationally, the school milk program had a positive impact on farmers in poverty alleviation and sustainability.

It supported the sustainable development goals of ending poverty; promoting good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; and decent work and economic growth.

It is time for the Federal and State Governments to commit to a free schools milk programme helping not only young school children but the Australian dairy industry as well.