China will carry out a school milk programme in 20 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions to promote the healthy growth of the young, declared state top officials at the 2nd Asia-Pacific School Milk Conference held in Shanghai Tuesday.
"China has more than 200 million school students, and comprehensive implementation of its school milk programme is of far-reaching importance," said Zhang Baowen, vice-minister of the State Ministry of Agriculture.
The programme's goal is to ensure that students get safe, nutritious, cheap and convenient dairy products in schools through the support of all levels of government.
Officials believe the programme will not only benefit the young generation or the following several generations, but also improve the health of the whole nation. And it will also provide a strong stimulus to the country's dairy industry, rural farming and related businesses.
Recognizing milk as an important element in the diet of growing children, many countries have established school milk programmes in recent years. It also promotes milk consumption and helps establish the habit of milk drinking in adult life.
The central government started the school milk programme two years ago, setting up national and local school programme offices and drafting special rules for the programme.
In 1999, five major cities carried out a trial programme. They were Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenyang and Guangzhou. The pilot project has been remarkably successful: A daily supply of 600,000 packages of milk is delivered to students in 2,000 schools in these cities.
At present, 20 provincial regions are prepared to implement the programme, which will gradually spread from major cities to smaller ones and towns.
To ensure that all school children can drink milk, experts are calling for more financial support from government or introducing preferential tax policies, which may encourage enterprises to provide school milk at a cheaper price.
Some cities like Shanghai are exploring ways to help children from poor families by collecting special funds with the help of schools and the general public.
Officials also stressed that the enhancement of inspection measures to ensure safe production, processing and transportation of milk was crucial for the success of the programme.
The two-day conference initiated and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations brought together about 300 participants from more than 20 countries and regions in the Asia-Pacific area.
Representatives from government, the dairy industry, and education and nutrition fields exchanged their experiences and successful models and strategies used in carrying out school milk programmes.
(China Daily November 21, 2001)