New grant encourages Lake Ridge students to waste less milk

David Floyd • Updated Aug 16, 2019 at 7:31 PM

It’s not often that you get to meet the animal that produces your food.

Students at Lake Ridge Elementary School, which has students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, did just that on Friday, making three new bovine friends: A 5-year-old adult cow named Veronica, a 7-month-old cow named Buttercup and a day-old calf named Explorer, who spent a good portion of the morning sleeping.

“We’re hoping that by seeing the dairy cows today and having some fun talking about where milk comes from and why milk is good for you that students may be a little bit more interested to consume milk and learn to be milk drinkers,” said Karen McGahey, the food service director with the Johnson City School System.

The event coincides with a $4,000 grant the elementary school recently received through the Dairy Alliance, which has allowed the school to replace milk cartons with milk dispensers and has paid for cups, cleaning racks and promotional materials. McGahey is hopeful the system will eventually be able to spread the initiative to other schools.

She said the program will cut down on wasted milk and encourage students to drink more milk, fostering stronger bones and teeth.

“It’s a huge calcium boost,” she said, “and there’s a lot of vitamins and minerals that are found in cow’s milk that are not found in other, similar beverages.”

McGahey said there are also many studies that indicate the number of broken bones has increased among young children because they’re not drinking enough milk.

As part of the initiative, the school has also moved from milk cartons to clear glasses, cutting down on the number of discarded milk cartons and food waste by allowing the students to visualize how much milk they plan on drinking.

“In a carton you can’t really see what is left or remaining in your carton,” McGahey said. “So with the clear cups we’re hoping we can work with students to be able to see the milk that they’ve chosen and consume what they’ve chosen.”

By moving to cups, McGahey said the school will take about 55,000 milk cartons out of the waste stream this school year.

“We think this can have an impact nutritionally and environmentally,” she said.

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