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RCSD Milk Dispensers: Doing the Body (and Planet) Good

RCSD Milk Dispensers: Doing the Body (and Planet) Good

We all know that milk comes from cows but it also comes from a specialized, chilled dispenser at three Redwood City School District (RCSD) schools. Students have been lining up at lunch for a chance to try the new machine.

Students using the milk dispenser to pour their own milk

Students at McKinley Institute of Technology (MIT), North Star Academy, and Orion Alternative have been filling their cups with cold, organic milk this school year in a District effort to not only encourage healthy eating habits, but to significantly reduce waste.

The dispensers, piloted at MIT and North Star during the 2022-23 school year, have already proved to cut down on wasted product and extra trash.

A study performed by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) found that milk and milk carton waste declined once the District implemented the bulk milk dispenser. Before the bulk milk dispensers arrived at those schools, around 51 percent of milk cartons were thrown away unopened during meal times.

Child Nutrition Services Registered Dietitian Anna Lague said that the same study is showing that students drink the milk that they serve themselves from the dispenser.

“When students are allowed to self-serve, they generally are more content,” Lague said. “They serve the amount of milk they want. The milk is organic and tastes really good. This encourages more children to drink the milk.”

Lague said that the students at Orion Alternative have shown great interest and excitement about the milk dispenser new to their school this year.

Students using the milk dispenser to pour their own milk

This initiative, funded in part by the California Department of Education (CDE) equipment grants and by Federal funding, is part of a larger undertaking to utilize more eco-friendly processes in District kitchens, Lague said.

Other examples include condiment pumps in cafeterias instead of individual packets. Utensil kits have been replaced with spork and napkin dispensers to eliminate extra plastic and straw use. The napkins are made from recycled fiber.

A number of school site kitchens take part in a composting program, sorting waste between organic and nonorganic. Large cans and cardboard are recycled.

And all kitchens have Share Carts, another important step in reducing food waste. The carts are placed outside the serving line at meal time.