ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Students in the Rochester City School District will not get milk with their school meals amid a nationwide shortage of milk cartons.

The district released a statement Monday evening, saying juice will instead be offered as an extra fruit option.

Monroe One Education Services announced a workaround. According to the school, the shortage of these cartons is affecting the availability of half-pints of milk for school meals.

Students of Monroe One are receiving milk in different-sized cartons and will be pouring the milk into cups for their students to drink. They said it’s to make sure that students get a consistent choice during their meals.

Monroe One says they were told by their milk provider that they are expecting to see an improvement in the shortage by 2024.

The New York State Education Department released a statement on Tuesday explaining that School Food Authorities must either pour milk from larger containers into cups, offer one type of milk instead of a variety, offer an alternate version of fluid milk, or not offer fluid milk.

NYSED also said that SFAs cannot offer juice in place of milk, adding that the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program require meals to offer no more than half of the fruit of vegetables can be in the form of juice.

Read the RCSD statement

School districts across the country and here in the RCSD are experiencing a nationwide shortage of milk carton material. As a result, the District will not be able to provide milk with school meals and instead will offer juice as an extra fruit option. This practice has been approved by the New York State Education Department until this issue is resolved. Thank you for your flexibility during this time.

Full Statement from the New York State Department of Education

Due to the unexpected nationwide shortage of paper milk cartons, many School Food Authorities (SFAs) are not able to obtain milk in half pints for their school meals programs. Although SFAs are expected to meet the fluid milk requirements to the greatest extent possible, supply chain disruptions, including disruptions that limit milk variety or affect serving size, are considered a temporary emergency condition. In these instances, SFAs are allowed to serve and claim meals during the emergency period by:

  • pouring milk from larger containers into individual cups,  
  • offering one type of milk instead of a variety,
  • offering an alternate form of fluid milk such as low-fat or fat-free lactose-free milk or reduced-lactose fluid milk, or
  • as a last resort, not offer fluid milk altogether.

Please be advised that juice cannot be offered in place of the milk component. SFAs must still adhere to the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program meal requirement that no more than half of the fruit or vegetable offerings may be in the form of juice.

SFAs are expected to maintain documentation of the milk disruption and the procedures implemented during the emergency period. SFAs are only required to notify the New York State Education Department, Office of Child Nutrition at sends e-mail) if the SFA is unable to serve any form of milk.

Please contact the Child Nutrition Office(link sends e-mail) for additional assistance.

Full Statement from the Northeast Dairy Producers Association:

“The recent announcement of the shortage of individual milk cartons could have impacts on school cafeterias across the nation. The bottleneck is due to a packaging materials shortage that is limiting the availability of cartons. To be clear, this is strictly a packaging issue and not a milk supply issue. The work of family dairy farms and the supply of locally produced milk remains strong and uninterrupted in New York State.

“Dairy processors are working diligently with industry partners to find alternative solutions for serving fresh nutritious milk in schools as well as other institutions like hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons including pouring milk from gallon jugs as well as exploring the possibility of installing milk dispensers. We encourage school food service directors to contact their dairy distributors to strategize a milk delivery system that works best for their district until this packaging issue is resolved.”