WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Schools are down to their last milk cartons.

This is due to a national paper carton shortage which has hit the milk supply chain.

A memorandum was issued to schools across the country in the last week of October, and schools in Watertown have already been hit.

Students in the district are offered a carton of 1% milk or chocolate milk with each meal.

“They’re thinking that we’re going to have cartons through possibly this Friday,” Watertown City School District Food Service Director Mary Hughes said.

Beginning Monday, November 6, the District will no longer serve milk cartons at breakfast and lunch. Instead, milk will be served in plastic cups with lids and straws.

Watertown has over 4,000 students spread across eight school buildings. Hughes said this will come with many challenges.

“Some of the elementary schools only have one food service worker at the school,” she explained. “So it’ll be her job to not only cook the food and get everything set up, serve the stuff and then turn around and run the child through the computer, plus pour them a cup of milk.”

Milk products will also only be served during the breakfast periods. The District has opted for other beverages for lunch meals.

“For those elementary students, we’re going to be trying to get juice boxes so we’re not as concerned about spillage,” Hughes said. “At the High School and Case Middle School, we will be using some fruitable water dispensers so that there’s always something available for the students to have to drink.”

It will be a while before this problem is fixed. Schools have been warned that the paper carton shortage is expected to last through February 2024.

New York Dairy Producers issued the following statement on November 1 regarding the shortage.

“Dairy processors are working diligently with industry partners to find alternative solutions for serving fresh nutritious milk in schools as well as other institutions like hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons including pouring milk from gallon jugs as well as exploring the possibility of installing milk dispensers. We encourage school food service directors to contact their dairy distributors to strategize a milk delivery system that works best for their district until this packaging issue is resolved.”

New York Dairy Producers

But Hughes said Watertown is ready.

“We’ll take it as it comes. The school is going to do the best they can and they’re going to make sure that the kids get a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch no matter what,” she expressed.

So for now, say goodbye to milk cartons.