Miles healthier with Glasgow's free milk

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Glasgow believes it has become the first council in Scotland to reintroduce free milk for all its primary pupils at lunchtimes.

The disappearance of free milk from primary schools in 1971 earned Margaret Thatcher the "milk-snatcher" epithet when she took the decision as Education Secretary at the time.

Glasgow has seen milk consumption in primaries rise from an average 5,800 litres a day to 6,400 litres a day over the past eight months.

During that period, all pupils who bought a meal or snack at lunchtime at a pick 'n' mix bar of fruit and vegetables were offered free milk.

This has proved such a success that councillors have been persuaded to allocate pound;56,000 from April to extend this entitlement to all 41,228 primary pupils in the city, regardless of whether they buy food or not.

Steven Purcell, education services convener, said: "We have been working extremely hard recently to promote milk as a healthy, nutritious alternative to other drinks, and by making it free to every pupil we are ensuring that everyone who wants it can have it."

The city, faced with some of the most intractable health and diet problems among young people in Scotland, has also stepped up its free fruit initiative which delivers more than 10 million pieces of fruit a year to 400 locations at a cost of pound;1.4 million a year.

Described as the largest healthy eating initiative of its kind in the UK, it supplies 60,000 pre-five, primary and special needs pupils with free fruit five times a week over the full school year.

The scheme kicked off with the traditional offerings of apples, bananas, grapes and plums. From last month this has been extended to what the authority describes as "more exotic varieties" such as melon, kiwi fruit and soft fruits in season.

The council has also released figures pointing to major successes for its "fuel zone" menus which have been increasing the number of healthy options.

The result has been a 105 per cent rise in the uptake of school meals in secondary schools since 1996 and a 14 per cent hike in primaries.

Only 45 per cent of secondary pupils now take sugary drinks at lunchtime, a 44 per cent reduction since 1996, and more than half of pupils do not eat chips with their lunch, which is a 50 per cent fall since 1996.

No sugary drinks are sold in primary fuel zones and chips are only available once a week as part of a main meal.

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