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Free milk and healthy snacks at ELC

Drinking milk and snacking on fruit and vegetables is a great habit for your child to get into. The Scottish Milk and Health Snack Scheme ensures that children who spend two hours or more in a childcare setting, including a regulated childminder, get free milk and healthy fruit and veg snacks every day they’re there. 

What is the Scottish Milk and Health Snack Scheme?

The Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme (SMHSS) provides a free serving of milk (or a milk alternative) and fruit or vegetables to pre-school children attending childcare settings that have registered for the Scheme.

This new expanded Scottish scheme replaces the UK Nursery Milk Scheme in Scotland from 1 August 2021. You can find out more about the Scheme on the website.

Is my child eligible for the Scheme?

Your child will get free milk and snacks if:

  • they spend 2 hours or more in a childcare setting, including a  childminder, registered with the Care Inspectorate, and
  • they haven’t started school yet, and
  • the setting or childminder they go to has registered for the Scheme. 

Is this all they will get to eat and drink?

No, the free milk and healthy snacks are just one part of the food your child will be offered during the day. You can see the guidance for what should be provided to children in regulated childcare settings here.

Children attending settings for a session that includes funded early learning and childcare hours will also receive a free meal each day.

Why is it important for my child to get healthy snacks?

The eating habits children get into when they’re little can influence the way they eat later on in life and affect their longer-term health and wellbeing. So the aim of the Scheme is to make sure that as many children as possible attending eligible pre-school settings receive the milk and healthy snack. This will help them get into the habit of drinking milk and snacking on fruit and vegetables from an early age. 

Trying different healthy foods is all part of your child’s learning experience when they’re at  a nursery or with a childminder, so while they’re there they’ll be offered a range of things to try. The SMHSS makes sure that milk (or a milk alternative) and fruit and veg are one of the things they’re given every day. Fruit and vegetable portions offered as part of the Scheme will include a variety of different types, colours, flavours and textures. 

What’s included?

The new Scheme will cover a healthy snack (a serving of fruit or vegetables per child per day) and 189mls (1/3 pint) per child per day of:

  • plain fresh cow’s milk (for children over 12 months) or first infant formula (for children under 12 months for whom breast milk is not available); or
  • if your child can’t have cow’s milk for medical, ethical or religious reasons, they’ll be offered plain fresh goat or sheep milk or (if they can’t have dairy for medical, ethical or religious reasons) a specified unsweetened calcium-enriched non-dairy alternative. This includes a non-soya alternative for children that can’t have soya.

A serving size of fruit or veg for a pre-school child is roughly what they can hold in their hand. 

What are the specified alternatives to milk and why are they only available in some circumstances?

Food Standards Scotland has advised that on the grounds of nutrition, plain cow’s milk is what should be offered to children under the Scheme. So settings should only offer an alternative if your child can’t drink plain cow’s milk for medical, ethical or religious reasons. The alternatives don’t include rice milk as this is not suitable for young children. If your child can’t drink milk or any of the alternatives, they’ll be offered water instead.

What if my provider is not registered for the Scheme? Or is not eligible?

All childcare providers who are registered with the Care Inspectorate are being encouraged to apply for the Scheme. You can ask your child’s nursery or childminder if they’ve applied to the Scheme, and encourage them to sign up if they’ve not.

What if my child is in childcare for more than 2 hours? Can they get this more than once?

The Scheme is intended to provide eligible children with one serving of milk and one healthy snack per day.  If your child spends longer in childcare  at one or more settings, other food and drink will be provided in line with the guidance in Setting the Table

If your child attends more than one setting in the day, they’ll usually receive the milk and healthy snack servings at the first setting. But you can discuss these arrangements with the settings if this doesn’t suit. 

Last updated: 28 Nov, 2022