School milk declines in recent years have been attributed to USDA regulations that limit milk varieties to lower-fat and fat-free flavored options. Many students reject these milk varieties because they don’t taste good, and these changes have led to food waste. It is a significant problem in many schools, and some districts are taking action.
For example, some schools separate waste into categories like recyclables, food to be donated, upcycling bins and general trash. One program in Virginia reported that unopened milk was donated to food pantries where it is in high demand.
A school district in Ohio was reportedly paying for students to take milk a la carte, because the student is required to take all the meal components in order for the school to be reimbursed by USDA. This approach often results in significant waste if the student only wants the milk and throws out the remainder of the meal.
Good News in L.A.
In Los Angeles, preliminary findings of a six-month pilot program in city schools indicate that reintroducing flavored milk in school meals helps to increase student participation and reduce food waste. After the school district found that it generated 600 tons of food waste each day, it conducted a pilot program in 27 schools to test the impact of reintroducing more milk varieties.
According to the LA School Report, an online news publication covering school news, the district previously generated four and a half ounces of waste per each eight-ounce serving of milk. That equals 236 gallons of milk wasted per week. The pilot program, conversely, showed that nearly all the milk was consumed when flavored milk was offered.
“IDFA is taking action to support policies that will increase school milk demand and reduce food waste in schools,” said Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, who is following the issue in school districts across the country.
For more information, contact Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org