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School soda machines move over for milk

Seven months after they first appeared in some New York State schools, milk vending machines are the rage. "We've been sort of deluged," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York, who began a statewide effort in March to promote the machines. "Sales of milk are through the roof."

Senator Schumer said 42 schools in 10 counties have the milk machines, and schools in at least 10 other counties are getting them. Upstate Farms Cooperative estimates 300 gallons of milk are sold each month from the average machine.

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"It's been very positive for my program, and I think it's positive for the health of the students," said Alan Butzer, an agriculture teacher at Springville Griffith Institute in Erie County. "Instead of soda pop and coffee, now a lot of them are just having milk in the morning."

Although many school districts have signed contracts with soda distributors, Schumer said the milk program was simply offering students another choice. "We're not trying to get soda machines out," Schumer said. "We're trying to create competition, provide an alternative."

Schumer said he hopes the vending machines will also help stabilize the local dairy industry, hit hard by fluctuating prices in recent years. New York is the US's third-largest milk producer.