Newly appointed "milk monitors" will help to distribute a carton of free, chilled milk to all pupils at Northland's Manaia View School this morning, in the rebirth of an iconic nutrition scheme.

The school, in a low-income area of Whangarei, is among more than 100 to take part in dairy giant Fonterra's pilot milk-in-schools programme throughout Northland, which starts today. That means around 10,000 children will be offered a 250ml carton, about the size of a standard glass, each day to sip from, including 240 pupils at Manaia View.

Free milk was given to school children for 30 years, until 1967. Now Fonterra has revived the scheme, to get more New Zealanders drinking more milk. It has started the scheme in Northland to test distribution and other systems and plans to extend it nationally next year.

Manaia View principal Leanne Otene said the school was excited about today's launch.


"We've got milk monitors. Children are keen on distributing the milk and will go into class each morning."

The cartons of long-life, reduced-fat milk will be delivered every few days and stored in a refrigerator supplied by Fonterra, to get it down to the preferred drinking temperature - perhaps a reaction to some people's distasteful recollections of having to drink sun-warmed milk in last century's scheme.

Manaia View pupils will receive their dose of good nutrition in a carton at the start of each school day, 9am.

"They can take their time and drink the milk at their desks - like they do with their water bottles - so it's not a rushed initiative," Mrs Otene said.

To deal with the potential problem of children not being able to drink milk because of lactose intolerance, the school surveyed parents but found that no-one on the roll had this dietary difficulty.

Mrs Otene said the milk would add to the school's existing nutritional programmes, such as the fruit-in-schools scheme, and providing breakfast for children who arrived hungry and lunch for those who hadn't brought any.

"Government guidelines state that children should have two to three glasses of milk a day; this is certainly going to go a long way to helping children meet that."

Of Northland's 133 schools with children in years one to six, 118 have taken up the offer of free milk. The scheme starts at 102 of them today; the rest will join in the second school term.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings has said that to get more New Zealanders drinking more milk, it has to be made more affordable and more available.

The price of milk has been controversial. A Consumer NZ survey last year found 91 per cent of participants thought they were paying a high price for milk, compared with other supermarket staples.

The commerce select committee has decided to continue the inquiry into milk prices begun by its predecessor committee in the previous Parliament before last year's elections.

Statistics NZ found in February that the average price of 2 litres of milk was $3.61.