End of free school milk

10 February 1967

Free milk was given to New Zealand schoolchildren from 1937. The first Labour government wanted to improve the health of young New Zealanders (and use up surplus milk).

The scheme was a world first. Each day, milk monitors supplied a half-pint (284 ml) of milk to each pupil. By 1940, the milk was available to over 80% of schoolchildren. For a few years during the Second World War, pupils also received an apple a day.

The scheme lasted until 1967, when the government dropped it on grounds of cost — and because some people were starting to question the benefits of milk.

In the 30 years of the scheme’s existence, thousands of Kiwi kids gulped down their daily ration of milk. In the 1950s school milk bottles had cardboard tops with a small hole for the straw. Not everyone enjoyed it. In the days before fridges and chillers, nothing was worse, some people remember, than the smell and taste of warm milk. 

Image: schoolboys delivering milk, 1941