HUNDREDS of pupils in the region are receiving free school milk this week as part of a campaign to improve primary children's health.

The campaign to put milk back on the menu in schools is part of School Milk Week, which runs until Friday.

Only 25 per cent of primary schools currently offer playtime milk, which is subsidised by the European Union for children aged five to 11 years.

But most of the schools that offer milk only give it to children aged under five, meaning many five-11 year-olds are missing out, claims the Dairy Industry Association.

As part of the campaign about 200 primary schools across England and Wales, including 10 in the region, will receive free milk for one day this week.

The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the EU subsidy for school milk. Currently only 10 per cent of schools claim their milk allowance.

Research conducted for the campaign shows that although children know about healthy eating and drinking they still prefer junk food.

Nearly three-quarters would drink cola, squash or lemonade, even though 94 per cent know milk or water are healthier.

Dairy Council nutritionist Michelle McKinley said: "Milk provides a host of vitamins and minerals that are essential for growing children.

"If more schools were to offer milk, the teeth and bones of the next generation would be greatly improved. "During childhood there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build strong bones and help protect against brittle bones in later life."