'Milk 4 Many' donates unwanted school lunch items

Started in 2011, under the direction of Lori Moss, a parent volunteer at Katy Elementary, “Milk 4 Many” donates unopened and unwanted milk and lunch items to Katy Christian Ministries to be given to those in need in the community. Brenda Martin, a substitute teacher and volunteer at Katy Elementary, is currently keeping the program running and growing. 

While lunches provided by Katy ISD’s Nutrition and Food Services Department are mandated to include milk, some children simply do not want to drink it on a given day, regardless of how much schools encourage them to do so.

The “Milk 4 Many” program gives children the opportunity to donate their unwanted milk to Katy Christian Ministries' food pantry and help a community member in need. Children can make the choice to place their unopened items in an ice-filled cooler near their lunch room trash cans to be donated. 

Katy Elementary is one of only six Katy ISD schools, five elementary schools and one junior high school, to participate in the program. While the other schools donate milk and juice, Katy Elementary students also donate unopened snack food items like chips and muffins they’ve decided not to eat. 

Katy Elementary principal, Beth Grimet, says, “This is simply making a choice of not throwing food and milk away. We’re taking care of Katy. We’re taking care of our community.”

Principal Grimet continues, “We stress the fact that we want the children to eat the food on their tray, but if they don’t want it, they have the opportunity to choose to place their food in the cooler to be given to less fortunate people.” 

Katy Elementary is the smallest elementary school in the district, having the fewest amount of enrolled students. However, the school has donated 5000 cartons of milk in a single year. During the first quarter of 2019 alone, 6.5 tons of unwanted items were donated to Katy Christian Ministries instead of tossed in the garbage. 

“Our community is very giving and takes care of each other. Our children always want to help and do good for others, so they really look forward to donating to someone else who may want it,” shares Grimet. 

The point that children are encouraged to eat their entire meal is deeply emphasized by Martin and the “Milk 4 Many” program. Martin discusses that, “We aren’t snatching milk away from children and giving it to Katy Christian Ministries. If they don’t want it, it is up to them to freely decide if they would like to donate it. But, of course, we really push the importance of eating and drinking their entire lunch.”

The collection of milk is completely dependent upon the help of volunteers from the Parent- Teacher Organization at each school. None of the responsibility falls on the teachers or staff to keep this program going. 

Volunteers pick up the cooler of donated items and transport it to Katy Christian Ministries on Mondays through Thursdays. The donated items are placed in a walk-in refrigerator and organized to be redistributed.

Martin noted that if Katy Christian Ministries ever has an overabundance of milk, the food pantry will then share some of the donations with other neighboring donation facilities. Basically, nothing goes to waste, and people all over the Houston area can have their needs met. 

Martin truly strives for more of Katy ISD to become involved in “Milk for Many”. “It’s such an incredible program to eliminate waste and help the community. My goal is to advertise the availability of the program,” says Martin. 

She recently learned, as she made an appeal to the Katy ISD Board of Trustees last month, many members were completely unaware of the program. She shared that Katy ISD Superintendent, Ken Gregorski, and his staff are looking into the program to determine if expanding it is a possibility. 

Since the program has gotten much more attention as of late, PTO members from Katy High School have inquired about “Milk for Many.” Even schools in Alief ISD have been in contact with Principal Grimet, seeking information.