First established in 1946, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's National School Lunch Program provides funding assistance for "nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day." Below is what the kids are meant to consume:
Ironically, dairy-rich Wisconsin is having a problem supplying the milk. Not for want of cows; the region is suffering from a packaging shortage of the half-pint containers schools require. (Dairy producer Borden-Select recently shuttered bottling plants in Illinois and Wisconsin, ending supply.) And if the schools don't provide kids with the milk, their funding from the program gets cut. This has led to a situation where "Supplies of small cartons of milk had to come from as far away as Minnesota or Iowa or even further," the Wisconsin State Farmer newspaper reports.
A local operation has come to the rescue. For reasons unknown (I assume cost), central Wisconsin's Weber's Farm Store has rather bizarrely been packaging their milk in plastic pouches since 1973.
Each gallon bag actually contains two half-gallon pouches, which you can kind of make out in the photo below.
When the business learned of the shortage, they had their bottling operation start filling 8-oz pouches to supply the schools. It's worked out for both parties: Weber's has gotten a sales boost, supplying schools totaling nearly 10,000 kids across three counties in central Wisconsin. And "The school districts love it," Ken Heiman, whose family owns the bottling plant, told WSF, "because it cuts their garbage* by 80 percent and the price is less."
As for the UX of drinking from a pouch, Heiman says the schoolkids "stick the straw in the pouch… It's like a juice box." I wonder what the folks who buy gallon pouches do; I assume they decant it into a sturdier vessel at home. I wonder if folks in other parts of the country would be willing to do the same since they'd be paying less for the milk. If so, that could start a packaging revolution.
Which would be worse for the environment, unrecycled milk cartons or unrecycled plastic pouches? *(You'll notice Heiman said "garbage" in his quote above. Milk cartons are technically recyclable…like a lot of other things that don't get recycled. I'm guessing central Wisconsin's recycling facility, like many across the country, are not equipped to recycle milk cartons.)
Join over 240,000 designers who stay up-to-date with the Core77 newsletter.
Test it out; it only takes a single click to unsubscribe