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Clark County school districts affected by dairy bankruptcy filing

By JENNA LAWSON • Jan 13, 2020 at 11:15 PM

The news of national dairies filing for bankruptcy is trickling down to Clark County local school lunchrooms.

Two districts in Clark County — Northwestern Local and Tecumseh Local — get their milk from Texas-based Borden Dairy Company.

Borden recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and announced the immediate closure of a Cincinnati production facility — a move that sent local school districts scrambling to find another way to get milk to their students.

“I could tell from the panic and passion from my food service director, this was a bigger deal than what I had originally thought,” said Northwestern Local Schools Superintendent Jesse Steiner.

Steiner said the district immediately began thinking of temporary solutions — like buying gallons of milk or bottled water, but neither were good long-term solutions.

“We were looking at 2,000 to 4,000 bottles of water and that would keep us for two, two and a half days,” he said.

Both Northwestern and Tecumseh purchase their milk through the Southwestern Ohio Educational Purchasing Council, a purchasing cooperative that works to get products at competitive prices.

The EPC’s director Ken Swink said about 40 school districts were called for an emergency meeting on Tuesday to talk about possible alternatives — 28 of those districts get their supply of milk from Borden.

It was decided that Prairie Farms, a dairy cooperative headquartered in Edwardsville, Illinois, will serve the EPC districts in Borden’s absence.

“With the Prairie Farm deal, we believe all of our member EPC school districts will have milk service in 2020 through the end of the school year,” Swink said in an email.

Tecumseh Local Schools Superintendent Paula Crew said the district was expecting a shipment of milk on Friday night from Borden.

“We know we’re good through next Monday and Tuesday,” Crew said.

Steiner said Northwestern’s next shipment of milk is expected to come Monday.

He said the district will have something for kids to drink at schools if the milk doesn’t get there in time for lunch, and parents can send drinks to school with their children.

“I talked with my Food Service Director Sue Geis and she assured me — we will have milk one way or another next week,” he said.

A number of other districts in Clark County — including Clark-Shawnee Local, Greenon Local and Springfield-Clark CTC — get milk through Reiter Dairy, which is owned by Dean Foods. The parent company also filed for bankruptcy late last year, but has told the News-Sun that operation at Reiter Dairy will continue to be “business as usual.”

The EPC is hopeful that Reiter will continue their distribution to schools for the remainder of the school year.

The Borden bankruptcy filing is also affecting school districts in the Dayton area.

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