Milk Carton Shortage Strains US School Lunch Programs

( – Schools and other institutions are faced with a shortage of something that most people simply take for granted: small milk cartons. Supply chain issues combined with an increased demand has manufacturers scrambling for solutions.

A company called Pactiv Evergreen, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, promotes itself as the “leading manufacturer” of packaging for fresh food and beverages in North America. The company issued a statement warning the demand is likely to exceed the supply. A large number of schools that rely on the small milk containers are likely to be among the most affected.

Officials in the states of Pennsylvania, New York, Washington, and California have already begun to plan for the shortfall. On a federal level, the Department of Agriculture has also acknowledged the potential issue and blamed supply chain issues.

California officials have been advising school administrators to be flexible in what they offer students; they’d like the schools to limit choices and offer boxed milk, shelf-stable milk, and potentially provide milk using bulk dispensers. In addition to schools, warnings have been issued to nursing homes and prisons and about what may lay ahead.

New York officials have advised parents to supply their children with water bottles or milk in cups with a removable lid. Seattle is already reporting chocolate milk being unavailable in recent deliveries. Jayme Taylor, director of communications for the school district said so far “that’s the only complaint” she’s heard from students.

Milk is a required by the government to be served with school meals. The USDA issued a memo last month letting school management teams know for now alternate sizes and types of milk may be offered and milk can be skipped altogether if necessary

No-one can say for sure how long this will last but many officials are telling parents to prepare for months-long delays. Milk processors are also working to resolve the problem by reaching out to a variety of package suppliers.

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