Installing a Bulk Milk Dispenser in your school cafeteria is one way to reduce waste and cut garbage and recycling costs.
Milk in School Lunches
Milk has been a long-time staple in school cafeterias. When you think back to lunch at school, you probably picture the small carton of milk sitting on your lunch tray. Today, USDA guidelines require that milk be offered with every school lunch or breakfast as part of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.
What’s the Problem?
The majority of schools choose to serve students their milk in the traditional 8-ounce gable-top carton. At first glance, cartons seem convenient. Students get their 8 ounces of milk in a neat, easily distributed package. But, when you take into consideration that more than 30 million kids eat lunch every single school day – those cartons add up to a LOT of waste.
Stop Waste with a Bulk Milk Dispenser
A Bulk Milk Dispenser and reusable cups can greatly reduce the amount of waste produced in your cafeteria. It’s a pleasingly simple solution that’s great for districts looking to establish sustainable environmental practices. So, why aren’t more schools using them? Unfortunately, the reputation of bulk milk service has long been dogged by misinformation.
Separating the Most Common Myths from the Facts:
“Bulk Milk Service will violate school lunch regulations”.
Guidelines for the NSLP identify 5 food types: milk, meat or alternative proteins, grains, fruit and vegetables. If you have chosen the “Offer” option for how you qualify for reimbursements, milk is not required, but must be available. Generally, students already have a reimbursable meal by the time they get through the serving line.
For schools utilizing the “Serve”option, milk is a required component for lunch. As part of a reimbursable meal, it has to be an 8 ounce serving. Schools are expected to take steps to ensure students receive the required 8 ounce serving. Using 9 oz. reusable cups with an 8 oz. fill line makes it easy for students to serve themselves and for staff to monitor how much milk is taken. Audits from districts currently using milk dispensers have indicated no issues.
“Students can’t serve themselves without spilling the milk”.
Remarkably, school districts that have implemented bulk milk dispensers report no additional spills. In fact, some schools have reported fewer spills with milk dispensers. Training prior to implementation is recommended. Allow students to practice using the milk dispenser during non-service times (emphasis should be placed on not filling the cup all the way up). They will enjoy sampling the milk and become excited to start using the dispensers at lunch.
“Students will throw the reusable cups in the trash, which causes additional work for staff”
A process will need to be in place to ensure students know exactly what to do with the cups at the end of the lunch period. It is recommended that a bucket and dishwashing rack be placed next to the trash or dish room window. Unfinished milk is poured into the bucket, then the cup is placed upside down into the dishwashing rack. This process needs to be taught and reinforced, but will quickly become habit for the students.
“Staff members won’t be able to replace the heavy bulk milk bags.”
Individuals who can physically handle the task of unloading crates of cartons into and out of a milk cooler can handle replacing the bulk milk bags. Milk is also available in proportionally lighter 3-gallon bags to limit the weight to 40 lbs. It’s recommended that dispensers be kept low to the ground to make adding new sacks of milk easier.
Using a milk dispenser with three spouts rather than two will help eliminate the need to replace empty milk bags while students are going through the lunch line. Since students prefer flavored milk over white, adding two chocolate and one white milk bag is recommended.
“There are more germs when using a bulk milk dispenser”.
The use of a milk dispenser does NOT introduce more germs into a student’s day than what an average student experiences. Students dispense the milk by lifting a metal bar. No contact is made with the valve the milk comes out of. The level of germs found on the metal bar would not be any higher than what is found on classroom doorknobs or any other object touched by students on a daily basis.
Only a handful of K-12 districts have embraced bulk milk dispensers, but they’ve already seen great results. These schools not only report a decrease in container and packaging waste, but also increased milk consumption related to students preferring the taste and chilled temperature of the milk from the dispensers. Each school will have its own challenges to overcome, but the benefits associated with bulk milk service in lieu of milk cartons far exceed those challenges.
So, for schools looking to reduce waste and serve convenient, tastier dairy, I ask – got a bulk milk dispenser?