New Zealand Markets closed

Free mik in schools to be extended

Primary schoolchildren throughout the country will get free milk courtesy of Fonterra next year after a successful trial in Northland.

Fonterra last year said it wanted to offer free milk in schools in 2013 but that it would launch a regional pilot in Northland first.

A year on, the dairy giant's chief executive Theo Spierings confirmed the scheme would go nationwide.

"New Zealand is the largest exporter of dairy products in the world, but at home, we're not drinking as much milk as we used to. We want to be the dairy nutrition capital of the world and this starts with our kids."

Mr Spierings said Auckland University research showed children's milk consumption in Northland had gone up significantly at home as well as at school since the pilot started.

"The Northland pilot allowed us to test our systems. We learnt some valuable lessons and got great feedback from schools in the area. We can now move forward with confidence the programme is a winner."

He said the programme would be extended to Southland in the first term of next year and be gradually introduced throughout the rest of the country during the year.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said it was up to each school whether they opted into the scheme.

Those that do get a daily serving of 180ml per child, along with fridges and an associated recycling programme.

"It is exciting to see the Fonterra pilot programme at Northland primary schools has had huge success. This is a great way to add value to our children's lives as they spend their hours getting a great education."

Free milk was given to school children from 1937 as part of a government scheme but was dropped in 1967 after the government said it was too costly.