Even though there is a near universal coverage of nutrition support for children through the mid-day meal scheme, it does not include animal source foods in many states which are sources of essential nutrients. Nutrition support through animal source foods such as milk/milk products would be acceptable to the large proportion of vegetarians.
An FAO publication – “Milk and dairy products in human nutrition” quotes a number of scientific studies on the link between milk and nutrition. A meta-analysis of 12 controlled trials (7 randomized and 5 non-randomized) of which 7 were conducted after 1990s, examining the relationship between consumption of dairy products and physical stature in children and adolescents aged 3 to 13 years has been published in 2012. In 8 studies, children received 190 to 568 ml of whole/skim milk daily while in the other studies, diets were supplemented with reconstituted milk powder, cheese and yoghurt. The meta-analysis concludes that the most likely effect of supplementing children’s diets is an additional growth of 0.4 cm per year for every 245 ml of milk added to the diet.
Milk is a source of Vitamin B12, a micronutrient commonly deficient in populations that consume low amounts of animal source foods and can be used as a fortification vehicle for micronutrients. Under-nutrition can be addressed through milk, since a diet that contains milk or dairy products provides 25 to 33 per cent of the protein requirement which may have a positive effect on weight gain and linear growth in children aged six months to five years who are suffering from moderate malnutrition.