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Overview of programs

A long history of contributing to the good health and nutrition of school children around the world

The provision of milk for in-school consumption has a longstanding history in many countries around the world, where milk and dairy foods have a long history of playing an important role in healthy eating patterns. These foods continue to be an important component of school meals globally.

Helping children grow

Consuming nutritious food is important at all stages of life, but especially for children and adolescents. Not only is adequate nutrition needed to support growth and development, but it also properly fuels bodies and minds for learning. Since children spend a significant amount of time at school, milk programs, which are often included as part of larger school meal programs, give children access to the nutrients they need to grow and develop.

Research has demonstrated that the school environment can have a major impact on attitudes to food, with school milk programs helping to address nutritional status of a vulnerable population and encouraging healthy eating habits. Analysis shows that a quality education, combined with a guaranteed package of health and nutrition interventions at school, such as school feeding, can contribute to child and adolescent development.

Fuel for life

Around the world, school meal programs offer milk as an important component of students’ meals and a key source of nutrition. School meal programs can often provide a safety net to ensure adequate nourishment for children, one of the most vulnerable populations due to their increased nutritional needs for development.

Packed with the nutrients a child’s body needs, milk & dairy give children power in their everyday life

Benefits for health & well-being

Experts agree that school meal programs have a positive effect on children’s nutritional and health outcomes. Consuming nutrient-dense foods like milk that are made readily available in school meal programs is also associated with improved academics and behavior.

Milk consumption has a strong association with building strong bones. Milk and dairy foods provide the right amount of bone-building nutrients, specifically calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12 and zinc.  

Beyond bone health, milk, with its unique package of nutrients, is also the leading food source of three of these four nutrients of public health concern in the diets of children: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.

A unique package of nutrients

Milk offers health attributes that are different from plant-based and other animal source foods, which can be very difficult to replace in a healthy dietary pattern for most people. 

Milk’s unique package of nutrients work together to provide multiple health benefits, including optimal growth and development in children and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. By encouraging milk consumption in schools, nutrient gaps that exist in the diets of children may be bridged.

Important dates for your diary

World School Milk Day is held all over the world on the last Wednesday of September every year to celebrate the benefits and success of school milk programs. The first World School Milk Day was celebrated in September 2000 and has since become an annual event promoted by the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations).

The provision of milk to school children has helped combat undernutrition in times of scarcity. World School Milk Day is celebrated in many countries, with an increasing number of activities taking place each year. Schools and milk providers are free to celebrate as they wish. Celebrations can be at any level – from national or regional events to individual schools.

International School Meals Day (ISMD) is a unique campaign with the aim of raising awareness of good nutrition for all children regardless of their circumstances. Since December 2010, the UK and USA have been sharing examples of policy and practices in promoting healthy eating in schools. With similar challenges and successes on both sides of the Atlantic, both wanted to find a way to raise awareness of the importance of good nutrition amongst children and foster healthy eating habits both at home and at school – and so, International School Meals Day emerged. Since its launch in 2013, it has brought together teachers and students, policy makers, school cooks, chefs, food and nutrition professionals, schools and communities, charities, businesses, and health professionals from around the world to talk about the importance of school meals and its impact on wellbeing and education.


On 1 June every year, World Milk Day celebrates dairy’s vital role in global food systems, providing economic, nutritional, and social benefits to a large proportion of the world’s population. IDF and its members work together to convey this message to the public by promoting activities taking place on and around this day.
World Milk Day was initiated in 2001 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to recognize the importance of milk as a global food, and to celebrate the dairy sector. Each year since, the benefits of milk and dairy products have been actively promoted around the world, including how dairy supports the livelihoods of one billion people.

Highly palatable & nutrient dense, milk—along with other dairy foods—play an important role in the diets of children

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Contributing to the good health and nutrition of school children around the world

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