$120m for School Milk Program

$120m for School Milk Program $120m for School Milk Program

A total of 1.4 trillion rials ($35 million) has been allocated so far for the annual free milk distribution program in schools for the current academic year (started September 23).

“The amount has been disbursed by the Organization of Targeted Subsidies, and the program has already begun in a number of provinces like South Khorasan, and will gradually cover the rest,” said Mansour Mojaveri, director of planning and budget management at the Education Ministry.

He said the budget allocated to the program by the Management and Planning Organization (MPO) was 4.5 trillion rials ($120 million), but so far about one-third has been made available, Mehr News Agency reported.

The government is determined to provide free milk to schools to improve nutritional intake of students. The number of milk packets distributed to students increased from 360 million (250 ml) packets in 2012 to 800 million (250 ml) packets in 2015.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), milk and dairy programs hold promise for improving human nutrition. Milk provides numerous critical micronutrients and improves growth of young children. Results from a global survey on school milk programs conducted jointly by the FAO and the International Dairy Federation highlight the crucial role that dairy products play in contributing to adequate intakes of nutrients by children and adolescents and that childhood dairy product consumption may affect various facets of growth and development.

In the previous school year, 100,000 tons of milk (2% of the annual domestic milk production) was distributed in primary and junior high schools as well as pre-schools and orphanages across the country. Each student got 70 packets of 250 ml. This year, it has been planned to distribute 800 million packets to nearly 14.5 million students in 105,000 schools across the country. Each student will receive 55 packets of milk.

  Pasteurized Milk Better

As the quality of pasteurized milk is better than sterilized milk, the Education Ministry tries to supply the former in all big cities. Sterilized milk is distributed only in remote areas, according to Mohammad Bathaei, deputy minister of education. Sterilization at high temperatures destroys microbes in milk, which guarantees its preservation.

In addition to improving children’s nutritional intake the government aims to help dairy manufacturers.

The majority of milk distributed in schools is produced by Iran Dairy Industries Company (Pegah), the biggest dairy factory in the Middle East. Producing 1.5 million tons of milk per year, it supplies 30% of the domestic Iranian market.

The milk-for-school program was initially launched in Iran in mid-1975; however, it had several disruptions over the years.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani re-launched it in 2013 for schools in megacities after it was resumed in 2011 and reportedly covered not more than 40% of the students, mostly in rural areas.

NGOs and social scientists have regularly voiced concern over the poor nutrition of school children, especially in the deprived regions, and urged successive governments to undertake effective nutritional programs in schools starting with the free milk scheme.

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