Earlier this month Local Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas joined TV's Dr Hilary Jones at an event at the House of Commons to celebrate the role of school milk in supporting childhood health.
Dr Jones is the spokesperson for the School and Nursery Milk Alliance, which works to highlight the health benefits of milk in schools. The organisation presented MPs with new research it has produced on the number of children who are already suffering from obesity or dental decay at the age of five. Jon Cruddas MP was also able to sample the fresh, chilled milk which children today receive, helping establish lifelong healthy habits.
MPs also heard about a recent review of evidence by Northumbria University (Newcastle upon Tyne), which concluded that drinking milk may support immediate and lasting dental and bone health in five to 11-year-old children, and could have a positive effect on preventing childhood obesity. Although drawn primarily from cross-sectional studies, the review reported that children who regularly drink milk have lower body mass indexes, body fat percentages and waist circumferences than children who rarely drink milk.
In the UK, children under five in childcare or primary school can get a free portion of milk every day through the Nursery Milk Scheme. Children aged five to 11 can get currently get subsidised milk through the European School Milk Scheme – although it is currently unclear if this will continue once the UK leaves the EU. The Alliance has called on the Government to ensure children have access to milk in early years' settings as a means of tackling obesity and dental decay. The Alliance has also encouraged ministers to support a replacement for the EU School Milk Scheme that allows children over five years old to receive subsidised milk in schools.
Jon Cruddas commented: "this is a great scheme that seeks to address some of the growing health concerns in children from more often, than not, deprived areas. I am in full support of the call to ensure that government sets up a contingency for the possible removal of the European School Milk Scheme."
Dr Hilary Jones, Spokesperson for the School and Nursery Milk Alliance, said: "The national figures for childhood obesity and dental decay are shocking. But our research shows that in many deprived areas the story is even worse. Evidence shows that ensuring children are regularly drinking milk can help address these problems. I'm delighted that Jon was able to join us and support our call to ensure that access to milk in school continues to be available, including for those children who currently benefit from the EU School Milk Scheme."