National Milk Carton Shortage impacting schools nationwide – WWPS developing solutions to minimize milk disruptions to local school meal programs
• November 3, 2023: Walla Walla Public Schools has been informed of a national supply chain disruption of cardboard packaging for half-pint milk cartons used for school meal programs. There is not a shortage of milk, only the cardboard containers it is served in. Walla Walla Public Schools is committed to communicating this situation transparently.
• The WWPS Nutrition Services Department is actively working with other suppliers to provide milk for school meal programs so students are not impacted by this national supply chain issue. The district is expected to have information about alternate sources by early next week or sooner.
• The national cardboard packaging shortage is a result of several complex factors, including disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic and increased demand for packaging materials, particularly in the e-commerce sector. While milk is still available in stores, the packaging we require for our half-pint cartons is becoming increasingly scarce, and the district must adapt to this challenge.
• The duration of this national disruption is uncertain but could range up to several months according to suppliers.
As a proactive measure, the district Nutrition Services Department is developing a contingency plan to minimize disruption while still providing good nutrition to our students.
The Contingency Plan Includes:
• Walla Walla Center for Children & Families (Preschool & Transitional Kindergarten): These programs will continue to offer milk by transitioning to gallon sized containers.
• All schools: They will continue to offer milk at BREAKFAST, if necessary transitioning to shelf stable milk at all sites. Soy milk will continue to be offered as a milk alternate.
• Elementary & middle schools and high schools: They will have juice and bottles of water will be available at LUNCH. Juice may contribute towards a fruit component (which is current practice).
Frequently Asked Questions about National Milk Carton Shortage
Q: Why is there still milk in the store but you can’t get it at school?
A: The shortage is with the packaging of half-pint cartons of milk, not with the milk itself.
Q: Why is there a milk carton shortage in the Walla Walla Public Schools, and how did this situation come about?
A: This is not a milk shortage, but a carton shortage, and it is affecting school districts throughout the nation. It is an issue with the carton manufacturer. WWPS is proactively seeking different suppliers to continue providing milk for school meal programs.
Q: How will the milk carton shortage impact my child's school and their daily routines?
A: There will be no impact to your child’s daily routines. If WWPS is not able to secure alternate suppliers to provide milk as usual, some change in beverage options could occur during breakfast and lunch.
Q: Can you provide more details about the expected duration of the milk carton shortage, specifically up to 2 months?
A: We have been informed the shortage could last up to two months or more, but we will keep you informed if that timeframe changes. WWPS is proactively seeking different suppliers to continue providing milk for school meal programs so there are no disruptions.
Q: What changes are being implemented in all schools regarding milk availability at breakfast?
A: If the district is not able to secure milk from alternate suppliers, it will activate a contingency plan, which includes: All schools will continue to offer milk at BREAKFAST, transitioning to shelf stable milk at all sites. Soy milk will continue to be offered as a milk alternate. Juice and bottled water will also be available at lunch.
Q: What is shelf-stable milk?
A: Shelf-stable milk is milk that has been through Ultra High Temp (UHT) pasteurization and packaged in an aseptic container so that refrigeration is not required. Aseptic packaging is made from different material and is not impacted nationally. We use that product during field trips when refrigeration is not always an option. Students will recognize the product.
Q: Will soy milk continue to be offered as an alternative to regular milk, and will it be available to all students?
A: Soy milk will be available at all schools, but students with dietary accommodation forms (food allergies) will be prioritized. With most school districts competing to find alternatives to milk cartons, there will not be enough supply of soy milk in the marketplace to provide milk to all students. There may not be enough for every student to have soy milk.
Q: Are there any additional changes or adjustments in school meal offerings that we should be aware of due to the milk carton shortage?
A: At this time the only adjustments are listed in the contingency plan noted above.
Q: How will parents be informed of any further developments or changes related to the milk carton shortage response?
A: The district website will remain updated with current information, and we will send ParentSquare messages to all families with updates.
Q: How can parents support the school's efforts to manage the milk carton shortage?
A: We encourage families to provide dairy at meals, and days outside of the school schedule as much as possible. Only the cardboard half-pint cartons are impacted, so milk will still be available in stores.
If you have questions please contact:
WWPS Nutrition Services
Pamela Milleson, Director