California dairy farmers and processors, with the support of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and Dairy Council of California (DCC), are aiding schools in the central and southern regions of the Golden State through a pilot program that supplies California schools with portable insulated milk cooler bags to keep milk cold and remain part of school meal service.
When the pandemic forced California schools to close their doors, many schools switched to a drive-thru service model to continue to provide meal service to students and families in their community. Drive-thru meal service is continuing despite schools opening back up, and as the weather warms, a growing concern shared by many school foodservice professionals center around challenges keeping milk cold. Milk is an important part of school meals and daily eating patterns, nourishing students and providing essential nutrients that support optimal growth and development, academic success and health.
To solve this challenge, CMAB created and sourced custom portable cooler bags, which are heavily insulated and able to hold up to two crates of milk. Highly portable, these cooler bags can be easily moved and stored, making them ideal for in-classroom, drive-thru and outdoor meal service. Beyond the pandemic, the cooler bags will also be able to support Summer Meals, helping California schools nourish children with fresh, cold milk as part of school meal service offered during warmer summer months. The cooler bags are being distributed to schools in need to help ensure milk can stay on the daily menu.
“School meals are an essential resource to promote healthy growth and development and support academic achievement. With the disruption of Covid, vulnerable students have faced limitations on access to healthy foods,” said Mike Gallagher, Business and Market Development Consultant for the CMAB. “By supplying California schools with cooler bags to help solve the problem of keeping milk cold, we can help ensure all children are able to access milk with their school meals.”
“Dairy foods like milk offer a unique package of nutrients that work together to provide multiple benefits, including optimal growth and development in children and reduced risk of developing chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” said Shannan Young, RDN and Program Director of Food Systems and Access at DCC. “Access to milk and dairy foods as part of a healthy eating pattern is especially important in underserved communities and during early childhood, since nutrition and diet quality can positively impact lifelong health.”
Three California processors took part in the test –Producers Dairy Foods, Crystal Creamery and Hollandia Dairy – to help fund and distribute approximately 5,000 cooler bags for schools in the central and southern part of the state. Distribution by these processors will continue until the supplies are exhausted in the districts of the pilot program.
California is the nation’s leading milk producer and is responsible for producing more butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk than any other state. The state is the second-largest producer of cheese and yogurt. California milk and dairy foods can be identified by the Real California Milk seal, which certifies they are made exclusively with milk from the state’s dairy farm families.