Vermont Schools Seek Stronger Connection With Local Dairy Farms

In a new report released by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), Vermont schools called for an increased sourcing of Vermont-branded milk. While Vermont dairy farmers supply most of the milk served in Vermont schools, respondents reported difficulty finding milk from local distributors that also meet federal nutrition standards. The statewide survey, designed to inform the dairy industry about how Vermont schools engage with fluid milk, provides valuable information to help milk processors, bottlers, and distributors connect directly with schools. Serving more than 13 million meals a year, Vermont schools demonstrate potential for market growth. The report includes recommendations and proposed projects schools and milk suppliers can use to build stronger relationships.

“Dairy farming is important to our economy, bringing in $2.2 billion in economic activity to Vermont each year,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “Vermont’s schools are important to our dairy farmers. This report highlights an important partnership between farmers and schools that could lead to healthier students and a healthier rural economy.”

The survey, open to all schools in Vermont, had 101 respondents, most of whom were food service managers serving 65 percent (60,000) of Vermont K-12 students. The report details the challenges in milk service, and the interest among schools in changing how they serve milk. The survey indicated that almost all schools responding participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast program, which restricts the variety and amount of milk that schools can serve. Most schools (76 percent) serve milk in cartons, while other schools utilize bulk coolers, gallon jugs, individual bottles, and various combinations of the aforementioned serving methods. While most schools aren’t interested in changing their service methods, the report explores specific market opportunities for milk suppliers and distributors.

This report is a follow-up to the 2016 report, Milk Service in Vermont Schools: Decision Making Criteria, Best Practices and Case Studies (http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/Milk Cooler Report.pdf), which aims to support schools in making informed decisions about milk service methods. This report was developed under the Vermont Farm to School Program, which helps schools develop and sustain relationships with local producers, enrich the educational experience of children, improve the health of Vermont children, and enhance Vermont’s agricultural economy.

To read the full report visit, http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/farm_school