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November 3, 2023
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JP O'Hare

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New York State Departments of Agriculture & Markets and Education Working Collaboratively to Support New York Dairy Industry and School Districts During Nationwide Paperboard Shortage

Department of Agriculture and Markets Actively Working with Dairy Processors to Keep Milk Flowing to Schools

Department of Education Issues Guidance to Schools During This Temporary Supply Chain Disruption

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYS AGM) and the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) today reiterated their actions and outreach to support New York’s dairy industry and schools during the nationwide shortage of packaging paperboard. The supply chain disruption has created a challenge for school milk packaging across the US as well as other institutions. The Departments have been in contact with the State’s dairy processors and membership organizations to help develop short-term solutions for milk delivery and issued guidance to School Food Authorities (SFAs) while the State continues to gather information on the shortage.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “While this is not just a New York problem— it is a nationwide problem— it is impacting our schools and their ability to serve New York milk to our students.  As we continue to learn more about the situation, we have taken immediate steps to bring our industry together and discuss temporary solutions to the packaging paperboard shortage so milk can continue to be a part of our students’ nutrition at school and to limit the impact on dairy farmers.”

State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “Studies have shown that access to nutritious foods and beverages in school greatly benefits students’ health and academic performance, and combats food insecurity. Working with our partners at the Department of Agriculture and Markets and school leaders is crucial to ensure all New York State students have access to healthy options and are ready to learn.”

NYS AGM is working to ensure New York dairy farmers have a market for their milk, and so is actively sharing information with the State’s milk processors to find alternative solutions to fill the demand for the packaging paperboard on a temporary, as-needed basis.  NYS AGM is also coordinating with the International Dairy Foods Association, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Northeast Dairy Foods Association to find additional packaging that may be available and ways to escalate the approval of alternative packaging. This will help ensure students are still receiving the nutrition they need through milk during their school day.

To assist the School Food Authorities (SFA) that cannot obtain milk in half pints for their school meals programs during this time, the NYSED has released temporary guidance. Although schools are expected to meet the fluid milk requirements to the greatest extent possible, the disruptions that limit milk variety or affect serving size are currently considered a temporary emergency condition. Guidance by NYSED was sent to the School Food Service Directors and Managers earlier this week, outlining steps that can be taken regarding the Child Nutrition Program Administration:

SFAs are allowed to serve and claim meals during the emergency period by:

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

The Department also 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.

The full guidance can be found on NYSED's Child Nutrition website.

SFAs with any questions about the guidance, can reach out to

 Alex Walsh, Executive Director for Northeast Dairy Foods & Suppliers Associations, said, “Our processor and supplier members are actively working to resolve the paperboard shortage issue by identifying additional sources, as well as altering operations to reduce the impact to schools as much as possible. We will continue to work with industry partners and state agencies to ensure schools have a supply of milk and provide nutritious and safe products to students.”

Keith Kimball, North East Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) Chair, said, “On behalf of our family dairy farms, we are grateful to our dairy cooperative leadership, state agencies, and elected officials who have been working diligently this week to share guidance and offer alternative solutions ensuring our schools, state institutions, hospitals, and nursing homes have access to nutritious, wholesome milk. 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.  Our dairy processors are committed to continuing to work with NY Agriculture & Markets, NY SED, and other industry partners to offer alternative solutions until the packing shortage is resolved."

David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President, said, "The school milk market is critically important to New York dairy farmers. New York Farm Bureau appreciates the coordinated effort to share resources and guidance to address the milk carton supply shortage. New York's dairy farms continue to produce the nutritious milk that our students need, and we are hopeful that by working together we can ensure it keeps flowing to the students who need it."