Thursday, August 25, 2022

School Year 2022-2023: Keeping Milk and Dairy on the Lunch Menu


It’s time to crank up the half-pint carton machine and get milk to those nearly 50 million children who returned—or will be returning toon--to U.S. public schools, as well as all those in the private school sector. Dairy and nutrition advocates are encouraging parents and policymakers to prioritize the health of students by making milk and dairy options more accessible in the coming school year. 

School milk sales have declined by more than one billion half pints since the 2008-2009 school year. This presents a challenge for both the dairy industry and school districts nationwide as they look to modernize milk while delivering it to students in the most economical, efficient and sustainable way possible. 

Today’s blog sponsor—Tetra Pak—along with Dairy MAX, an affiliate of Dairy Management Inc., and National Dairy Council that represents dairy farmers in select Western regions, recently conducted a pilot program with the Dallas Independent School District (ISD), Texas’ largest school district. Nine schools in the district were offered shelf-stable milk in aseptic cartons. This packaging does not require refrigeration until opened. It is made from primarily renewable materials and is recyclable. Not only does the longer shelf life reduce spoilage and waste, but it also means fewer deliveries and reduced costs.

The pilot program numbers show the benefits of shelf-stable school milk. For starters, net milk consumption increased 12%. Further, with reduced delivery frequency coupled with shared deliveries, it is projected that the district could save $1.5 million per year by switching the entire district to shelf-stable milk. Additional findings from the program included that there were no “lost milk days” from supply chain issues, administrative work was reduced due to fewer invoices and, most importantly, children favored or were indifferent to the taste of the shelf-stable milk.

Shelf-stable milk is the same milk that comes in traditional chilled packaging. To allow for a shelf life of more than six months with no refrigeration needed before opening, the milk undergoes ultra-high temperature processing and is then filled in aseptic cartons. This process and package combination retains the nutritional values of dairy milk without the use of additives or preservatives.

Source: Tetra Pak/Dairy MAX

In addition to tasting great, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for America (DGA) recommend three servings of dairy a day for a healthy diet. Milk is the top source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin D in kids ages 2 to 18 years old. However, according to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, U.S. children over four years old and adolescents are not consuming enough dairy to meet the recommendations in DGA, thereby under consuming a variety of nutrients they need to grow. And, because of falling participation rates in school breakfast and lunch programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and removal of universal free meals in the 2022-2023 school year, there are growing concerns for nutrition security among students.

“Milk makes school meals more healthful and offering many varieties of milk encourages children to consume these products vital for their own development,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “From low-fat flavored to lactose-free options, parents, educators and policy leaders overwhelmingly agree that milk on the menu encourages healthy kids and ensures that everyone has equitable access to the 13 essential nutrients milk provides through school meals.”

Michael Dykes, president and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), said, “The most recent DGA report is clear: children are not receiving enough essential nutrients for growth, development, healthy immune function and overall wellness. School meals offer the most important opportunity of the day for children to get the essential nutrients they need in an 8-ounce serving of milk. Now is the time of year when our parents, educators, school meals professionals and policymakers need to work together to encourage school meal participation and nutritious milk consumption each day.” 

Survey data shows the best way to do that is by offering many varieties of milk, including different fat varieties, flavors and lactose-free options. Shelf-stability helps reduce waste and safe money. Might the future of school milk be in aseptic cartons? 

Source: Tetra Pak

“Research shows children eat their healthiest meals at schools, which provide balanced nutrition including milk, whole grains and a variety of fruits, vegetables and lean protein,” said, Lori Adkins, president, School Nutrition Association (SNA). “School nutrition professionals are committed to ensuring access to and promoting consumption of healthy school meals to support student success.”

The NMPF, IDFA and SNA are working with parents and school nutritionists to increase consumption of dairy in keeping with recommendations from the 2020-2025 DGA report and leading health organizations. This FACT SHEET released by the group underscores how all milk is a source for 13 essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium, nutrients of public health concern for children. 

4th Annual CMAB and VentureFuel “Open Innovation” Competition Finalists 

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced the eight finalists in the Real California Milk Excelerator, a partnership with innovation consultancy VentureFuel. The program is focused on identifying, curating and accelerating dairy-based products, including traditional consumer food and beverage items, textiles and beyond. The competition will award up to $500,000 in prizes for startups that introduce novel benefits and drive use of California milk and dairy in formulations.

In its fourth year, the 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator advances innovation in its truest state: open. As one of the biggest dairy competitions in the world, the program seeks early-stage applicants with high-growth potential that create a 50% cow’s milk-based product or working prototype.

"We launched the Excelerator to foster a culture of innovation in support of California dairy and this year’s contestants certainly delivered on our high expectations,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “Our ‘Open Innovation’ finalists focused on themes important to the next generation of consumers: sustainable sourcing and use of upcycled materials; clean labels and benefits from convenience to function; and global flavors and ingredients.” 

The eight members of the 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator cohort are:
  • Dosa by DOSA (Chico, Calif.) – Indian yogurt Lassi drinks.
  • Board at Home (Chico, Calif.) – E-commerce company, offering an experience of artisanal crafted cheeses and products shipped directly to consumers’ homes.
  • Goon with the Spoon (Danville, Calif.) – Specialty super premium ice cream from hip-hop artist, entrepreneur and chef Earl “E-40” Stevens.
  • Mi Terro (City of Industry, Calif.) – A first-of-its kind, venture-backed synthetic biology and advanced material company that engineers biomass waste into compostable biomaterials to end microplastic.
  • Neutral Foods (Gustine, Calif.) – Organic Half and Half product that has a carbon neutral footprint.
  • Pariva (Boston, Mass.) – Spreadable marinated yogurt bites.
  • Tres Lecheria (La Habra, Calif.) – Traditional and flavored Tres Leches cakes.
  • Wheyward Spirit (Sonoma, Calif.) – A clear, specialty spirit upcycled and distilled from whey.
“This VentureFuel innovation program for CMAB was designed to uncover the many uses of dairy,” said Fred Schonenberg, Founder and CEO of VentureFuel, Inc., the corporate innovation advisory firm that curated and runs the Excelerator. “Our curation of new startup solutions, especially the finalists, demonstrates the many ways dairy can innovate to connect with the next generation of consumers, showcasing sustainable options, creative packaging, new markets and direct-to-consumer approaches.”

Finalists will participate in a pitch event Wednesday, November 2nd in San Carlos, Calif., where all eight companies will present before a live audience and panel of industry expert judges. Once again, I’m judging. 

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