Four out of five UK adults think children should have access to free or subsidised milk in schools and nurseries, according to new polling.
The School and Nursery Milk Alliance (SNMA) said there were still too many children who are missing out on free or subsidised milk when at school or nursery.
Following the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, many education settings are still yet to re-start their milk schemes, meaning that many children are missing out.
The SNMA commissioned YouGov to poll over 2,000 adults across the UK to understand opinion on the importance of school milk provision.
Four out of five UK adults (79%) think children should have access to free or subsidised milk in schools and nurseries, while nine out of ten (88%) of 2019 Labour voters backs it.
Support for milk in schools and nurseries is nationwide, but the Welsh public in particular believe that the government should continue to provide free or subsidised milk (89%).
The Welsh public’s enthusiasm is perhaps not surprising, as Wales is unique amongst UK nations in providing free milk for all children in Key Stage One, rather than just subsidising it.
Further research from the SNMA finds that England leads the way when it comes to school milk provision this year, providing an average of 116 servings of milk per pupil. Wales came second with 73 servings of milk per pupil this year.
The research comes as part of World School Milk Day 2023 (27 September), which celebrates the benefits of school milk.
School food standards require lower fat milk or lactose reduced milk to be available to drink at least once a day during school hours.
But the SNMA said too many schools and nurseries were unaware of the different available programmes that could be giving their pupils free healthy milk.
To assist with the cost of providing milk, schools can take part in Nursery Milk Scheme, led by DHSC, providing free milk to children under the age of 5.
The School Milk Subsidy Scheme, managed and topped up by Defra, provides subsidised milk for all pupils children between five and 11 years old attending Ofsted-registered schools.
The SNMA's spokesperson, Dr Hilary Jones said: “Drinking milk on a regular basis improves health outcomes for children and yet millions are missing out through a simple lack of awareness of the available government schemes.
"There are numerous programmes available for children in schools and nurseries to access free healthy milk, but the take up is too low.
“World School Milk Day is the perfect opportunity for the government to ensure that schools and nurseries across the UK are aware of the different schemes that exist.
"The government must encourage them to sign up to ensure that millions of children across the country can drink free healthy milk when at school."
Jon Thornes MBE, chair of SNMA, added: "Unsurprisingly, an enormous majority of the British public also want the government to continue to provide free or subsidised milk for children in schools and nurseries.
“We urge the government to do all it can to ensure that as many education settings are signed up to the available milk schemes so that as many children as possible are able to drink healthy milk at school or nursery.
"And all UK nations need to follow Wales’s positive example and do more to ensure that as many children as possible are able to drink healthy milk at school or nursery."