The long-standing relationship of milk and school lunches has put dairy in front of children for generations. However, with changes in fat percentages allowed in schools, the pulling of full-fat flavored milk, and general changes in student preferences, more and more milk has been wasted.
A recent study by the Food Waste Warrior program reported that as much as 45 million gallons of milk were wasted last year in school lunchrooms valued at $138 million. The study predicted that total food waste in schools could cost as much as $9.7 million per day or $1.7 billion per school year.
The statistics were compiled from nine states and 46 schools from January to June 2019. On average, each school produced 28.7 cartons of milk equivalent waste per student per year. Elementary schools averaged 37.6 cartons per student and middle schools tallied 19.4 cartons of waste per student.
There were differences in waste based on how milk was provided to students — plastic containers, individual cartons, or bulk milk dispensers. Students who had the option to serve themselves from a milk dispenser wasted the least milk. Those that were provided with individual cartons wasted the most milk. In one of the studied cities, students wasted 58 cartons per student per year.
The study concluded that milk waste could be reduced in schools by allowing kids more time to eat and providing younger children with smaller serving sizes of milk.