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School Milk Program, Canada

The Dairy Farmers of Ontario program to support healthy meals in schools,
in operation since 1986


Ontario, Canada

Number of children


Age range

4 to 14 years



Program overview

First introduced in 1986, the Elementary School Milk Program (ESMP) is committed to providing elementary students with milk on a daily basis, so they can stay healthy, alert and ready to learn. Since its inception, millions of children have benefited from this program with the help of thousands of volunteers and people in the Ontario dairy sector.

An estimated 20,000 volunteers support the program every year. All elementary schools in Ontario can register for the Elementary School Milk Program at no cost. Registration for ESMP provides schools with ongoing resources, support and dairy connections to run a successful milk program.

Once a school is registered, they then contact the dairy distributor provided by ESMP to establish a relationship, as well as get delivery timelines, available products and pricing. It is recommended that schools sell the milk not more than $0.05 above the distributor cost, but ultimately it is their decision.

Type of products

Milk (chocolate & white) in various sizes and containers

Stakeholder engaged

School boards, school staff/administration, parents and students

Additional details

Schools are provided with resources to communicate the program and ordering options to parents. Each school contacts their distributor to place orders and manages all funds and transactions. Once delivered, the school manages the milk inventory and distributes the orders to students. All schools are advised to provide both white and chocolate milk a minimum of three times a week.

COVID-19 drastically affected school and nutrition programs across Ontario. In order to continue providing students with the opportunity to have milk and the nutrition it provides, program delivery was pivoted. The new measures included the following:

  • Distributors provided contactless delivery to all schools
  • Safety tips and best practices have been provided to all schools
  • The new online platform allows schools to operate digitally thereby minimizing exchange of physical items and germs
  • Surveys and calls to schools were completed to understand how ESMP can provide support through the pandemic


Dairy Farmers of Ontario

Monitoring & impact

Since its inception, millions of children have benefited from this program.

In 2000, ESMP began tracking program data to better support schools. About 90 per cent of schools return to the program every year because students, parents and their schools appreciate the nutrition and convenience benefits. 

As well, more than 155 dairy distributors across Ontario provide milk to schools participating in ESMP.

  • Data tracking available from 2000/2001 school year
  • 19,823,000 servings were consumed through ESMP in the 2018/2019 school year
  • 2020/2021 – 2,329 registered schools (49% of schools operating due to COVID) 804,239 students participate

Dietary guidelines

Canada's first food guide, the Official Food Rules, was published in July 1942. Since 1942, the food guide has been revised many times, most recently in 2019.

Canada’s Food Guide is used as an education and policy tool to promote healthy eating. For decades, the food guide has been widely integrated, providing a consistent, science-based foundation for healthy eating policies and programs across Canada. There is no single official body responsible for the implementation of the Food Based Dietary Guidelines. Canada’s Food Guide is implemented through policies and programs by various organizations and all levels of government, such as the provincial and territorial governments, health professional associations and non-governmental organizations. There is no official implementation plan.

Further links





Related reports & publications

IDF provides a permanent source of authoritative scientific and other information on a whole range of topics relevant to the dairy sector.