Today, September 30, 2015 is the 16th World School Milk Day, which is to celebrate the benefits of school milk programmes around the world.

World School Milk Day is designated by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations).

The National Dairy Council (NDC) is using the opportunity to highlight the natural goodness of milk and the importance of the milk, yogurt and cheese food group as part of a balanced diet.

Caroline O’Donovan, NDC Nutritionist said that national surveys have shown that 37% of Irish girls and 28% of Irish boys aged five to 12 years don’t get enough calcium in their diet; and 42% of teenage girls, 23% of teenage boys also have insufficient calcium intakes.

“Given that they are going through a significant stage of bone growth and development during those years, it is a worrying trend.

“Milk is among the best dietary sources of calcium and the School Milk Scheme is an effective way of helping to alleviate some of these nutrition-related public health issues,” she said.

As a nutritionist, O’Donovan advises families to follow the Department of Health’s recommendations of three servings per day from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group, with five servings recommended for nine to 18 year olds due to the importance of calcium during this life stage.

Calcium is an essential nutrient for the growth and development of normal bones in children she said and that examples of one serving include 200ml of milk, 125ml of yogurt or 25g of hard cheese.

The School Milk Scheme is a convenient and affordable way to help children meet the recommended intake from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group.

“This food group also supplies a range of other nutrients; for example, milk is a natural source of calcium, protein, vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin B2 and phosphorus – making milk and dairy quite an affordable source of good nutrition,” she said.

The NDC also provides fridges to schools registered with the School Milk Scheme to make sure milk is served refreshingly cool. Schools interested in registering for the School Milk Scheme can contact the National Dairy Council for further information.

The NDC has also produced a series of consumer leaflets on ‘Nutrition and You’ which are endorsed by the INDI (Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute) – with a leaflet specifically children, as well as one for adults and one for those aged 50+ years.

The consumer leaflets on ‘Nutrition and You’ can be downloaded free from the NDC website.