Thirty-four Otago primary schools have signed up for Fonterra's milk in schools programme.
Since it announced the scheme last month, more than 520 schools nationwide, about a quarter of those eligible, had registered their interest, the co-operative said yesterday.
The scheme starts to roll out in Southland towards the end of term 1, followed by Christchurch. A Fonterra spokeswoman could not say when it would start in Otago, where it will cater for at least 4300 children in the participating schools.
More schools are expected to sign up. Otago has 144 schools eligible for the programme. Pine Hill School principal Melanie Jewiss said she had registered the decile 3 Dunedin school for the scheme. The school planned to incorporate the daily milk into its nutrition education programme.
She did not know whether school pupils' parents struggled to afford the basic commodity, but given the price she imagined some did. She said parents did a good job of providing healthy lunches for schools.
A Dunedin business provided fruit for the school, which was not eligible for the Government's targeted fruit programme. Methodist Mission chief executive Laura Black said milk was proven to improve children's learning, and she hoped Fonterra would extend the scheme to preschool children aged 3 and 4.
While ideally she would prefer philanthropy was not used to provide basics, in the ''real world'' parents were struggling and Fonterra's scheme helped them.