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03-28-03: Fresh straight from the dairy
The Daily Standard

    MARIA STEIN - Got milk?
    The answer is "Yes" at Marion Local High School. And it comes in interesting flavors like strawberry, light chocolate, Hershey chocolate, cookies and cream and, last but not least, two varieties of good 'ol white.
    A new milk vending machine took up residence in the commons area last month, offering students access to a refreshing and nutritious beverage whenever thirst strikes.
    "I think one of the basketball players turned out to be the first customer," Superintendent Andy Smith said. "He put in two bucks, got two milks and drank both of them down in nothing flat. We should have made him our poster boy."
    Bestsellers thus far appear to be cookies and cream, which is the consistency of a milkshake, and strawberry, according to food service supervisor Viola Mescher. Students can use the machine throughout the day. However, she believes sales may be slowest during the lunch period since a carton of milk comes with each meal.
    The school district received a $1,000 milk vending machine grant from the American Dairy Association. Other donors quickly stepped forward. They included the Marion Young Farmers, $1,000, and Mercer Landmark, Land O' Lakes and local veterinarian Dr. Mark Hardesty, $500 each.
    The $4,000 machine ended up costing the district just $500 thanks to their generosity. The milk vending machine grant is part of the association's dairy promotion checkoff program. Schools serving grades 6-12 are eligible to apply for the $1,000 grant, with a limit of two awarded per district.
    "We initially discussed where to put the machine," Smith said. "We came up with two prime reasons why it should go to the high school."
    The plastic bottles contain 16 ounces, considerably more than most elementary students drink in one setting. Also, high school students tend to have more spending money than younger children. The new milk offering costs $1, which is comparable to soft drinks and bottled water offered in another school vending machine.
    Junior Amber Staugler likes the commons location because it's on the way to class. The 2 percent white offering is her favorite because it contains less fat than the 3.5 percent.
    "I used to drink more pop but I've switched to milk," she said. "It's better for you."
    Fellow junior Andy Schulze is a confirmed milk lover, maintaining "it gets my day started." He makes a beeline to the machine shortly after arriving at school for a bottle of cookies and cream.
    Smith said flavors were chosen based on recommendations from Reinhard Dairy of Fort Recovery, the school's dairy products supplier.
    "They recommended products that sell well in convenience stores," he added. "The feeling was if something like banana-flavored milk did not sell in a store, it would not sell here at the high school."
    Junior Dana Prenger, who admits to drinking significantly more milk since the machine's installation, would like a peach flavor. Other suggestions from her counterparts include orange, apple and banana.
    "Milk vending machines offer kids the drink they have been craving served cold and in appealing flavors," said Janna Mennetti, registered dietitian for the  American Dairy Association & Dairy Council Mid East.
    Scott Higgins, ADADC Mid East chief executive officer, agrees wholeheartedly. "By serving as a catalyst to increase milk vending sales in schools, we're helping to increase overall demand for milk products."
    The philosophy certainly seems to be working at Marion Local.


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