The USDA reports that there is a shortage of milk cartons impacting school lunchrooms in New York, California, and other states.

Schools across the country are struggling to find substitutes for the small cartons of milk typically served with school lunches, which may become scarce in some cafeterias.

According to suppliers in the dairy industry and state officials, the issue is not a lack of milk, but rather the use of cardboard cartons for packaging and serving it.

The company Pactiv Evergreen, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, claims to be the top producer of packaging for fresh food and drinks in North America. In a statement on Friday, they recognized that they are still experiencing much higher demand than expected for their milk cartons.

According to Matt Herrick, spokesperson for the International Dairy Foods Association, the scarcity is impacting the company’s capacity to completely fulfill certain school milk requests.

Officials from schools in New York, Pennsylvania, California, and Washington state have stated that they are making preparations for the anticipated shortage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also acknowledged that this supply chain issue will impact multiple states.

State education officials in California have advised schools to be adaptable in their methods of providing milk to children. This may include limiting the options for milk, utilizing boxed and shelf-stable milk, and implementing bulk dispensers to distribute milk.

The deficit of cartons, which may also impact the availability of milk and juice in medical facilities, care homes, and correctional facilities, has prompted authorities nationwide to devise contingency strategies.

The local school district officials in Clarence, New York have stated that they will offer “small bottles of water or cups of milk with lids” to parents if there is a shortage of cartons.

According to Jayme Taylor, the director of communications for the local school district, chocolate milk was not included in this week’s dairy delivery in Lake Stevens, Washington, which is located 40 miles (64 kilometers) away from Seattle.

She mentioned in an email that was the sole complaint we received from students.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently released a memo stating that schools are required to serve milk with their meals. However, during a supply shortage, districts have the option to serve alternative types or sizes of milk or to not include milk at all.

The duration of the carton shortage is uncertain. Officials in Everett, Washington have advised parents to anticipate potential disruptions in school cafeteria milk supply for a period of several months.

Herrick stated that American dairy companies are collaborating with other packaging providers to address the shortage. He anticipates that the issue will improve in the coming weeks and be fully resolved by early 2022.

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