​​​​​​​​​History and tradition of school milk in Japan​​

The school milk programme in Japan has a long history and tradition. During the period after the war, child malnourishment was a major issue across Japan.  A more comprehensive solution was needed to solve this challenge as it became a serious social and education problem.

In 1946, the First Educational Delegation recommended a systematic health education and a school lunch programme in Japanese schools.  Working in collaboration with the Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Health & Welfare, the Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia and UNICEF started providing donations of milk during 1949–1951. As milk started to play an important role as a vital source of nutrition in school lunches, parents welcomed the donations and PTAs organized volunteers to help serve the milk to the children.

In 1951, after attaining full independence, external aid to supply milk and foodstuffs for the school lunches was proposed to be stopped due to budget reasons. 

The Initiative

The Parent Teachers’ Associations across Japan urged for continuation of the school lunch programme.  Working in collaboration with the authorities, legislation was proposed so that the school feeding programme using locally produced food, could be prioritized in the budget for years to come. 

In 1954, a School Lunch Law was passed.  In 1959, the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Education decided to supply locally produced liquid milk in schools and subsidized the farmers supplying the milk with the objective of improving the dairy industry and nutritional status among children.  Subsequently, milk in cartons were introduced to ensure food safety and standardized nutrition rations.

The Value - serving lunch in schools

Lunch is now served in over 98.6% of all elementary schools and 83.9% of junior high schools across Japan.  Today, 10 million children receive lunch at school 180 days per year, of which 3 million receive milk in Tetra Pak packages. Currently, 3 systems of the School Lunch exist:  1) A full lunch with a carton of milk; 2) A complementary lunch with or without milk; 3) Only milk is provided.

Milk in school meals constitutes 12% of all white milk consumed in Japan. 

According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, school lunches have made a significant improvement in anthropometric data among school children in Japan. The mean weight of 6 year-old children in 1955, has increased from 33kg to 44kg today. In addition, the mean height of children of 6 year-old children has shown a significant improvement of 139cm in 1955 to 153cm presently.

As a result, the school feeding programme has become an integral part of Japanese society having such a positive impact. 

Looking Ahead - promoting environmental education

To promote environmental education for the long-term, a school milk carton recycling programme has been implemented.  Working in collaboration with customers and the authorities, Tetra Pak initiated a Bellmark Program in schools which promotes the collection of used beverage cartons, provide information about the value of recycling, and how to correctly handle packages before recycling.  Schools collect “Bellmark Points” for the cartons they recycle, and in return they are given provisions including educational kits and library books.  To date more than 6,400 schools have participated and an estimated 1.8 million ​students have been reached. 74% of all cartons are being recycled. 

Recycling in Japan

​We are working with children on how make carton recycling in a fun, interactive way, and it is helping raise environmental awareness for the future.

Key Points:

  • Legislation to protect the programme.
  • The mean weight of 6 year-old children in 1955, has increased from 33kg to 44kg today.
  • The mean height of 12 year-old girls has shown a significant improvement of 139cm in 1955 to 152cm presently.
  • Environmental education initiatives in school. ​