This year, to reduce waste, two Canby elementary schools got milk dispensers in lieu of cartons, and it's working so well the district is looking to expand

HERALD PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - Delilah Woodruff mixes chocolate milk with 1 percent milk from the milk machine at Knight Elementary.In September, when milk dispensers were installed in the Knight and Carus cafeterias, Canby became the first school district in Oregon to use the dispensers instead of milk cartons, reducing waste significantly. The program is going so well that now Galina Dobson, Canby's director of nutrition services, wants to put milk dispensers in all of the elementary schools next year.

"It's a huge percentage of our waste every day…not just the stuff that's going down the drain, all the leftover milk, but the cartons fill up the garbage can over and over," Dobson said.

In a video Clackamas County made to highlight the program success in Canby, Waste Reduction Education Coordinator Laurel Bates said that about 50 percent, by volume, of a school lunch trash is milk cartons, and schools throw away between six and 10 gallons of milk each day.

With reusable plastic cups replacing cartons, it's obvious the two Canby schools that already have dispensers aren't filling the garbage cans as much, but they're also dumping less milk down the drains. Why? In part, because the milk tastes better.

...It doesn't have the cardboard taste that cartons have." -Galina Dobson, director of nutrition services

"They say it doesn't have the cardboard taste that the cartons can have," Dobson said in the county's video, "it's just really fresh, and they like it a lot."

The two schools' costs are also climbing down. Average milk purchasing has decreased by 40 percent and milk sales have increased by about 40 percent, according to Dobson.

"…Kids [bringing lunch] from home are buying milk and the kids who are eating school lunch aren't taking as much," Dobson said. "So we're wasting less, our cost is going down, but more kids are getting nutrition from the milk than before."

In addition to the environmental and cost impacts, the dispensers are also functional and the kids have adapted easily, despite first thinking it might be an ice cream machine, Dobson said.

"They love it. They absolutely love it." -Superintendent Trip Goodall

Superintendent Trip Goodall said he joked with kids about the dispensers when he visited.

"The first time in there, I started telling the kids I wondered how they got the cow to be so little. Many of them did pause for a second," Goodall said.

He added, "They love it. They absolutely love it."

Dobson first brought the program to Canby after being approached by Clackamas County Resource Conservation and Solid Waste about a grant opportunity. It is grant time again, and with the program's success, Dobson hopes to be able to expand it to all of the elementary schools in 2018-19.

Kristen Wohlers
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