Working in partnership to deliver milk to school children in Uganda

The challenge – childhood malnutrition and low school attendance

In Uganda, low levels of milk consumption, combined with deficiencies in other key food groups, has contributed to high levels of malnutrition, with 29% of children under the age of five suffering from stunting. An estimated 2.3M children in the country are chronically undernourished1.Furthermore, Ugandan schools face poor educational outcomes, with a high level of absenteeism (30% for primary school children) and a low level of conversion from primary to secondary school (25%).2

Children receiving school milk

The initiative – involving parents, dairies and the Ugandan Government

The Uganda School Milk Programme is an innovative initiative that is primarily funded by parents, supported and directed by local dairy processing firms and the development organisation SNV, and backed by government policy and resources. Tetra Pak East Africa and Food for Development are working closely with stakeholders to transform the Uganda dairy industry by creating a vibrant ecosystem of processors to improve nutrition, enhance livelihoods, and stimulate economic growth through dairy development and a school milk programme. Despite some success and strong political will, these programmes have faced challenges such as a lack of funding, high food prices and the Covid-19 pandemic.3

Stakeholders are advocating the establishment of a national school milk programme which aims to impact the country’s entire dairy value chain in the following ways:

Improving both nutritional and educational outcomes among school children by supplying them with safe, nutritious milk. This in turn will contribute to the creation of a generation of consumers by encouraging a culture of dairy consumption, thereby increasing local demand for dairy products. Local demand should create a predictable local market for dairy products, specifically more demand for processed milk. This will contribute to more value-adding economic activity, i.e., more business for the dairy processing sector. Growth in local demand for processed milk will provide farmers with a predictable outlet for their milk (especially in this period of oversupply), improving their incomes and livelihoods.

Results from the programme and subsequent learnings will lay the foundation for a national school milk programme that can supply domestic milk across the country, including to non-milk-producing regions. Four Tetra Pak customers in Uganda will supply the milk for the programme: Pearl Dairy, Brookside Dairy, JESA Farm Dairy, and Vital Tomosi.

Milk processed and packaged using Tetra Pak’s aseptic technology will help ensure food safety and quality, while providing the children with important nutrition. With aseptic technology, UHT milk can be safely transported to schools without the need of a cold chain, and subsequently stored at room temperature.

Children in line, receiving school milk

Pearl is proud to participate in Uganda’s School Milk Programme as we strongly believe that this initiative will play a pivotal role in not just addressing the nutritional needs for children, but also in sculpting the dairy consumption landscape in Uganda. As one of the largest stakeholders in Uganda’s dairy value chain, our purpose is to change the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers in Uganda and make a more resilient next generation for Africa by catering to the nutrition needs of today’s children. In our constant effort to become the leading nutrition company in the region, we hope to scale up our engagement and participation in the programme to extend our reach and provide access to milk to many more children in several more schools and lead the change we wish to see.”

–Mr Rohit Rajasekharan, Chief Transformation Officer, Pearl Dairy.

Happy children with school milk

The value – improved childhood nutrition, education and livelihood

To help reach this goal, Tetra Pak East Africa, along with Food for Development, held a School Milk Programme workshop in Uganda in August of 2023. To ensure their alignment and efficient cooperation for scaling up the programme, the workshop involved all the programme’s key stakeholders.

By providing regular nutrition in the form of safe, packaged milk, the programme aims to improve health status of children, while creating an incentive for them to attend school, thereby improving literacy rates. In this way, Uganda’s School Milk Programme should contribute positively to children’s healthy growth, development and learning capacity, as well as foster a market for locally produced and processed milk. Furthermore, development resulting from interventions in the dairy value chain should create jobs and sustainable livelihoods, addressing poverty among smallholder dairy farmer households.

"To improve school children’s health and to support their development and school performance is very important for the future of Uganda. Through great collaboration with our customers, the government and the parents of the children participating in the Uganda School Milk Programme, we are able to support these children with much-needed nutrition. And because of our UHT technology we can provide the nutrition in rural areas where electricity and cold chains are a challenge.

–Jonathan Kinisu, Managing Director Tetra Pak East Africa

Looking ahead – expanding the programme and cementing partnerships

Under this initiative, 50K school children are currently being supplied with white and flavoured milk. The impact of the programme on health, attendance and school performance will be measured to help scale-up with the objective of establishing a nation-wide school milk programme.

1Database on child malnutrition, UNICEF, WHO & The World Bank, 2020

2Situational Analysis for children in Uganda, UNICEF, 2016

3Global Child Nutrition Foundation, Global Survey 2021