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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Strike kept milk off school lunch trays

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Although no one apparently missed it much, milk should be back today on all public school lunch trays after a brief hiatus caused by the teachers strike.

Uncertainty over when classes would resume interrupted milk production and delivery by Foremost and Meadow Gold dairies, Department of Education officials said.

Students in most schools across the state were drinking fruit juice or water with their lunch after returning to classes last Thursday following settlement of the strike.

Only the Big Island managed to have enough of the familiar half-pints of milk on hand at all but one or two schools, said Lynn Hiratsuka, DOE School Food Services Branch superintendent for the Hawai'i District.

Meanwhile, milk was not available at schools on O'ahu, Maui or Kaua'i.

Terri-Jean Kam-Ogawa of the branch's Honolulu office said milk returned to O'ahu public schools Monday, but that it took a couple days longer to get it from O'ahu dairies to the Neighbor Islands via barge.

A Meadow Gold spokeswoman described the situation as a logistical problem.

During the milk shortage, the beverage selection varied from school to school, based on what was available. Some had POG (passion-orange-guava juice), others had grape juice or pineapple juice. "We had no choice. It was POG or water," said Sue DeCoite, Maui District school food service superintendent.

A few schools had nothing but water to serve with lunch.

The children apparently have been enjoying the switch. Kam-Ogawa received a few requests to make juice a permanent part of the school lunch menu, but that will not happen, she said.

Milk is the "most volatile" product used by school cafeterias because it has a limited shelf life and must be stored at precise temperatures, Kam-Ogawa said.

It is also an expensive part of the school menu. On O'ahu, the DOE pays about 23 cents per half-pint, about a third of the 75-cent price students pay for lunch.