Kokua Line

Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, March 3, 1999

Don’t cry over
spoiled milk, let
the pigs have it

Under the lunch program in public schools, children must pick up a half pint of milk. Those who don't want milk are allowed to throw the container away unopened. My understanding is that, by law, they're supposed to dump this milk, even if it is unexpired. I think this is sinful. There must be better ways to use this milk, even giving it to farm animals. Why do they just have to waste this milk?

Public school students are "encouraged" to take a carton of milk, which is included in the 75-cent cost of lunch.

If they don't want milk, they can return it as long as the milk doesn't leave the counter, said Eugene Kaneshiro, director of the state's School Food Service Branch. The milk must be refrigerated immediately or else it has to be disposed of, he said.

Once the milk leaves the counter, "we do not recycle it because we don't know precisely how long that milk has been out there," Kaneshiro said, noting milk is easily spoiled. "That is the recommendation from the Board of Health sanitation branch."

Many schools do have agreements with pig farmers to pick up garbage, including milk, he said.

The problem is there are not enough farmers to go around.

"In fact, it is a critical problem for us in disposing of food waste -- both from kitchen trimmings and food not eaten on the plates," Kaneshiro said. "I think we will end up, some day, having to pay somebody to take away that swill."

Kaneshiro noted there already is concern about how much wet garbage is going to landfills and the city's H-Power plant. He's been working with a company that's trying to find a way to process and recycle the cafeteria garbage for animal feed.

Unfortunately, students waste a lot of food. "In the lower grade levels, there is waste enough for us to be concerned," Kaneshiro said.

One way to combat that is through the federal "Offer versus Serve" program, in which students are given a choice -- essentially a mini salad bar to go with a set entree, milk and bread.

Students now can choose between 1 percent chocolate milk or 2 percent regular milk. Next year, skim milk will be available. "We saw a marked improvement in consumption when we offered chocolate milk about two years ago," Kaneshiro said.

"We say, if given a choice, (students) normally would eat what they choose," Kaneshiro said.

It's up to each school to decide whether to offer the program. "As much as possible, we don't try to make a one-size-fits-all program," Kaneshiro said, explaining the lunch program philosophy. However, schools are required to follow U.S. Department of Agriculture rules and dietary guidelines not only to provide nutritious meals, but also to qualify for federal subsidies, he said.

FYI: Public schools serve about 150,000 lunches and about 25,000 breakfasts each school day. Every school offers lunch, while 92 percent offer breakfast.

Each lunch costs about $2.60 (food, labor and operational expenses), but students pay only about 30 percent -- 75 cents. In round numbers, the federal government subsidizes 40 percent and the state, 30 percent.

Kaneshiro said everyone is trying to keep the price low, "because, when the price goes up, fewer students eat. And, when that happens, we are missing the whole point of the lunch program, which is to prepare students to learn. Our mission is not just to feed the kids, but to keep them healthy by providing a nutritious meal."



To radio stations who say "call in now," but when you finally break through the busy lines, they don't answer the phones. I no longer plan to listen to them. Not listening is just a click away! -- Donna

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