A shortage of paper milk cartons has some schools scrambling for options to ensure students have access to milk at school meals.
CBS News reports that California, Pennsylvania and New York have advised their school districts to be flexible in how they get milk to their students. A required staple in many school breakfast and lunch programs, milk provides protein and nutrition to children and families who might not otherwise have access.
Some schools have followed federal guidelines issued last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which said it considers the shortage a "temporary emergency" and that schools can be flexible in how they deliver milk to students, such as by serving it in cups instead of the usual cartons.
"State agencies may allow program operators experiencing milk supply shortages to serve meals during an emergency period with an alternate form of fluid milk or without fluid milk," A USDA announcement stated. "Although program operators are expected to meet the fluid milk requirements to the greatest extent possible, supply chain disruptions, including disruptions that limit milk variety or affect serving size, would be considered a temporary emergency condition for purposes of this flexibility."
Numerous New York school systems, which have been hit especially hard by the shortage, are reporting that they are working on solutions to get milk to children. The dairy cooperative Upstate Niagara Cooperative says that because of the milk carton shortage, it will deliver milk to its school customers in half-gallon containers.
The Fayetteville-Manlius School District, about 25 minutes from Syracuse, said it has purchased a one-month supply of "water bottles to replace milk." The school district also said it would look into making bulk milk purchases and then pouring the milk into cups for the children.
Neighboring school district West Genesee said that once its supply of milk in cartons is gone, it will serve milk in a cup with a lid.