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Sustainable School Milk Program Generates Powerful Results


Kids walking through the lunch line have been served a carton of milk for decades, but what if there was a better way? Foodservice professionals are becoming more sensitive to the amount of milk left in those cartons—and where the cartons themselves end up. Barb Schank, Director of Nutrition Services for the Waconia School District in Waconia, Minn., took a closer look at the waste associated to milk distribution after their recycling program stopped accepting milk cartons.

“Our sustainability initiatives and our desire to be more environmentally friendly probably was our biggest incentive [for a bulk milk program] because we could dial back cartons to zero,” said Schank.

Switching to a bulk milk program would automatically save milk carton waste; just one bag of milk for the dispenser equals 80 cartons. What would be the bigger challenge was their milk waste.

milk with dispenser

Previously at the end of lunch time, students would drop off their trays and empty what was left of their milk into a bucket.

“We learned that there were 20 gallons at every elementary school every day emptied, the middle school had 15 gallons and the high school had in the neighborhood of 15,” said Schank.

At the beginning of the 2019 school year, the five participating schools in the district largely united to teach students to be conscientious of how much milk they took and how much they were wasting.

“[School staff members] were there coaching them and receiving kids at the end of the line. If they had an inch of milk, we’d encourage them to try to drink it if they could, but if they absolutely couldn’t, they could set it on the counter, and we would handle it from there. But we would give them the reminder of ‘tomorrow, make sure you just take a half of glass’,” said Schank.

milk dispenser

Because of their diligence and careful education, the program has become a great success.

“Across the district, every single day, we only capture milk back in one middle school and it’s at half of a gallon,” said Schank.

After switching to a bulk milk program, Schank needed to find a durable tumbler for kids to use.

“We’ve used Cambro over the years and we have just thought it was a really reliable product. We had [tumbler] samples brought in. We had maybe nine different glasses that we weighed out and the customer service we got [with Cambro] …it was a step above what most people do,” said Schank.

After weighing her options, Schank decided on the Del Mar® Tumblers with a personalized “Café 110” logo. Café 110 is named as such for their district number.

Schank says the students are very happy with the new bulk milk program. Not only does it save waste, the consensus among students and staff is that the milk tastes better out of the dispenser too. Additionally, keeping the cartons cold during service previously wasn’t always easy or consistent. Now, their bulk dispenser keeps their milk hovering just above freezing.

“There’s just nothing better than ice cold milk,” said Schank.


Boost your school, restaurant, healthcare or company brand with personalized Cambro Tumblers. Contact your Cambro rep to get started.


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