Monday, August 09, 2010

Milkman of Human Kindness

Weather : pleasant. We managed to watch about half of the last episode of Sherlock last night before griping stomach pains and general tiredness sent me to bed early.

I note the furore about free school milk over the weekend. I'm one of the generation that had their milk snatched in the early 70s, but I can't recall it ever being something that I looked forward to. In the winter the milk would be frozen with bits of ice in it, but it was worse in the summer when the crate would sit outside the classroom in the sunshine for a couple of hours before morning break. This would leave the third of a pint bottles curdled and sour, and I can still recall the vague feeling of nausea after drinking one. We were not allowed to leave any, even if it took the whole of break time to force it down, probably because there were starving children in India if I recall correctly.

The scheme nowadays only applies to children under five in pre-school nurseries and costs somewhere upwards of £50m to run. Malnutrition is not the same problem that it was in the post war years when the scheme was introduced (and originally for all school age children up to 16, which surprised me). A purely sceptical, scientific approach would make scrapping the scheme and replacing it with targeted alternatives a no-brainer. There would certainly be greater health benefits from providing overweight children with a bit of fruit or fresh veg for a snack instead of crisps and chocolate, for example.

So, why the outcry about milk, particularly from the sort of middle class parents who would be likely to pack their little Tarquins and Jocastas off with healthy food in their lunch boxes already? I suspect that we won't see the same complaints from the parents of the poor kids who pass fish and chips through the bars at lunchtime for their Turkey Twizzler deprived offspring.

It is more worrying that we seem to be heading back to government by spin and soundbite, where all policies have to approved by running them past the Daily Mail features writers first and then cost analysed with the net effect on Rupert Murdoch's balance sheet quantified.

Not a good precedent.


Nancy said...

Your early childhood milk experience sounds traumatic! It would have been to me, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm late to this conversation but...I recounted EXACTLY the same story to maria, about the milk. She was stunned about the "not being allowed to go out until the milk was drunk" when it was frozen! I know. Think of all the slides in the playground. The snowballs to be thrown. She wasn't so upset then!