ALBANY, N.Y. (WRGB) — A growing nationwide milk carton material shortage has school districts in disarray as they seek alternative solutions to provide students with milk.
The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service said it is "aware [of the milk supply chain challenges]" affecting New York, Pennsylvania, California and Washington state and provided guidance:
SED (State Education Department) may allow Program operators experiencing milk supply shortages to serve meals during an emergency period with an alternate form of fluid milk or without fluid milk."
Sen. John Mannion called on the New York State Education Department and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, urging the departments to work with districts to ensure students have access to milk in schools.
"Students should not be deprived of access to milk due to lack of packaging. Milk has been shown to provide numerous health benefits for children," Mannion said in his letter to the departments.
New York Assemblyman Chris Tague, R,C-Schoharie, released a statement Wednesday saying he "is furious about the way schools are handling the current milk carton shortage and the lack of response from the government."
Tague, a former dairy farmer, has long used his position as an assemblyman to advocate for farmers in the state.
"Evergreen Packaging, the leading packaging manufacturer in North America is responsible for the packaging of fresh milk and supplies various schools, nursing homes, and prisons with the products. With so many clients and requests, the company just can’t seem to keep up with the demand," the news release from Tague states.
Pactiv Evergreen, based in Lake Forest, Illinois, acknowledged in a statement Friday that it “continues to face significantly higher than projected demand” for its milk cartons.
Milk is required to be served with school meals, but officials with the USDA’s FNS issued a memo late last month allowing districts to serve different types or sizes of milk during the supply shortage — or to skip milk altogether.
It’s not clear how long the carton shortage could last. In Everett, Washington, school officials told parents to expect a disruption in cafeteria milk supply that could “range up to several months."
Editor's note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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