The closing of a Mayfield Dairy plant in Braselton this fall appears to have prompted a run of late deliveries and shortages of milk to schools in the Hall County School District, according to officials.
On Monday, Dec. 10, the Board of Education voted to end its contract with Mayfield effective Dec. 27.
The board also approved an approximately $500,000 contract with Borden Dairy, effective Jan. 2, 2019, to fulfill this need going forward.
Cheryl Jones, director of nutrition for Hall Schools, said Mayfield’s service had become “lousy” since September and was not meeting its delivery and quantity schedule.
“That’s pretty low quality,” Superintendent Will Schofield.
“It’s been disappointing,” Jones told board members. “This is our next step. (We) can’t mess around.”
Mayfield announced late this past summer that it would close its local plant and lay off more than 100 workers.
Representatives could not be reached for comment.
Milk, like bread, is a staple of school cafeterias across the United States.
In fact, federal regulations and nutrition guidelines require public schools to carry milk for students, including for students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and drinks.
Hall County Schools has contracted with Mayfield for the last three years.
Schofield said the delivery problems are not isolated to Hall County, and that he had received reports of similar issues arising in other school districts across Georgia that contract with Mayfield.
Gainesville City Schools, as part of the Georgia Educational Cooperative, also contracts with Mayfield.
“However, we have only had a few minor issues with deliveries,” said Penny Fowler, director of school nutrition for GCSS, adding that there are no plans to change vendors at this time.
Hall Schools has contracted with Borden previously and Jones said the results were always satisfactory.
She added that Mayfield had been a “great partner” until the recent problems.
Mayfield’s problems may be a sign of its parent company’s struggles, as well as the changing dynamics of the industry.
Dixie Truelove, vice president of Truelove Dairy Inc. in Hall County, said “the dairy industry has a much bigger problem than just what goes on here locally.”
Her company made a decision two years ago that reflects some of these problems.
“We are no longer milking cows for production to sell the milk,” Truelove said.
Meanwhile, Truelove said, retailers like Kroger, Walmart and Publix are investing more in their own processing plants to pasteurize and bottle milk instead of purchasing from suppliers like Dean Foods, a Dallas-based company that owns Mayfield. For example, Publix announced a year ago that it planned to expand its processing plant in Gwinnett County.