School Milk Vending Machine Project Initiated in NW Iowa

Chris Mondak, dairy field specialist
Dee Wyland, family nutrition and health field specialist

In the past two years, members of the dairy community often cited a concern about the need to present a positive image of the dairy industry to the general public and to do something to promote education about and consumption of dairy products. As some individuals and groups became aware of promotional materials available through Midwest Dairy Association, several groups began the first steps to get milk vending machines into their local schools without the knowledge that others in the region were embarking on similar projects.

Iowa State University Extension (ISUE) dairy specialists, in conjunction with staff from the Iowa Institute of Cooperatives, were instrumental in connecting the separately-operated groups or individuals into one working group. These staff members assisted with the logistics of meeting planning, contact lists, meeting minutes, and access to additional resources, including an ISUE nutrition specialist to assist with education program development for participating schools.

The initial working group, comprised of dairy producers, veterinarians, feed co-op staff, local ag businessmen, the Sioux County Dairy Board, and the Dairywomen Peer Group members, formed a non-profit organization--Iowa Milk Vending Machines, Inc. Their mission is two-fold: to assist local schools obtain and set-up school milk vending machines, and to assist schools in providing enhanced nutrition information to school kids about healthy eating and lifestyle habits, and about the role of dairy products as part of a health diet.

The organization set a goal of installing machines in 15 area high schools this year. To accomplish this goal, the group has started an aggressive fund-raising campaign to raise money to purchase the machines and cover initial start-up costs. The machines will serve as fund-raising projects for school clubs, who will retain half the profit. The remaining half will be returned to the non-profit organization to fund the purchase of additional machines for interested schools.

From the first organizational meeting in July 2003, the level of activity by the core group has been intense and progress has been rapid. On August 21 and 22, 2003, the first machines were installed in five schools in NW Iowa. The “Got Milk” machines dispense the Land O Lakes Grip and Go 12-ounce plastic bottles. Product choices include chocolate, strawberry, chocolate shake, cookies and cream or cappuccino, and low-fat white milk. Group members have been impressed with the high level of enthusiasm expressed by school principals, school club members and their advisors, the custodial staff, and the students. Sales of milk are going well so far.

Efforts will continue to identify 10 more schools this fall interested in adding a milk vending machine to their array of in-school vending machines. Seven more machines are on order. An ISUE nutrition specialist is working with school staff to enhance each school’s nutrition education program. The Midwest Dairy Association will assist school clubs with promotional information. Iowa Milk Vending Machines, Inc, the result of an avid “grassroots” project, hopes to serve as a model and resource for those in other regions interested in pursuing school milk vending machine projects, improved nutrition information to school kids, and a positive image of the dairy industry.

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
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