England is now enmeshed in a debate on whether their ‘Nursery Milk Program’ is “outdated, ineffective, and too expensive” as Ann Milton, the Health Minister asserts. The program supplies 189ml of milk for free to children in childcare until they reach their fifth birthday. Begun in wartime England in the 1940s, the idea was to give young children a little bit extra by way of nutrition when food was rationed and in short supply.
Today, however, according to Ms. Milton, food is cheap and readily available, and there is ‘no evidence’ that the costly free milk program contributes in any way to the health of young children in England. Ann Milton believes it would be better to give families a voucher for the value of the milk supplied by the day care centers so that families can purchase milk as well as other sources of nutrition, such as vegetable, fruit, cheese and meat on their own.
The government decided, however, to go against the advice of the Health Minister, and to stick with the milk program. The government explained that milk is a special food which can easily give children a real ‘nutrition boost’ due to its ‘nutrient dense’ quality. Milk is an amazing source of lots of great nutrients, like protein, zinc, vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), and B12. Milk also aids in the absorption of iodine, niacin, and vitamin B6.
Milk is also a rich source of calcium which is crucial for growing children. Lots of calcium in the diet assures the development of strong bones. In just 189ml of milk which the milk program provides the children receive half of the daily recommended amount of calcium for children aged four to six. Although there are other sources for calcium and vitamins, such as leafy green vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds, it is much easier to get children to drink a cup or two of milk than to have them “finish your vegetables!”
According to the government, which is retaining the milk program, “milk is the ultimate fast food.” It is a quick and nutritious snack which would be a pity to take away from nutritionally vulnerable young children.