Auckland school children knocking back half a pint, 1937
New Zealand's First Labour Government introduced free milk for children at school in 1937 to improve the health and welfare of young Kiwis. In the midst of the Great Depression, it didn't hurt to find a steady demand for surplus milk either. For a time during the Second War War, school children even received an apple a day.
School milk meant better bone & teeth development, as well as a "meal" in the stomach at time when widespread economic deprivation caused by the Depression meant many kids did not get full nutrition at home.
Between 1937-67, school children received a half pint bottle of milk during their morning class sessions. In an era before widespread refrigeration, crates of milk boats were often stored in a small slatted shed raised off the ground in some shaded spot close to the school gates. At least that was the case at the primary school I attended in the last years of the programme. Boys in standard 6 would pile crates on a hand cart and deliver the milk to each classroom, later collecting crates of empties to be returned to the shed for later pick-up by the milkman.
School milk was not to everyone's taste, especially on warm, sunny days when unrefrigerated milk would warm and start to turn. The crown of cream on top of the bottle's contents could also be a bit off-putting as it clogged one's way into the liquid below.
In 1967, cost and some doubt about the health benefits of milk saw the end of the programme. In an age of "greater personal freedom", school milk gave way to expanded opportunities for private expenditures by ill-informed consumers in the guise of school children on soft drinks and junk food, the focus of "the concerned" shifting to childhood obesity and assorted ills. The more the wheel turns, etc, etc.