DURHAM — Students at Oyster River Middle and High schools are the first in the state to be drinking local, fresh milk at public school cafeterias, according to school Superintendent James Morse.

The two schools transitioned from offering students milk in cartons to milk from Cantoocook Creamery, a dairy producer in Hopkinton on Feb. 13.

The change to providing local milk at the schools was made possible by a partnership between the district's Child Nutrition Program and the creamery. For the past six years, the Child Nutrition Program has offered local foods to Oyster River students, including apples, beef, fish, root vegetables, greens, tomatoes and squash.

"We have a reputation for buying local and in the past when I looked into local milk there was either none available that was pasteurized and homogenized or the price was much too high," said Doris Demers, child nutrition director for Oyster River Cooperative School District. "I really didn’t think it would ever be possible. Contoocook’s price came in much lower than I expected and very close to our state bid price. I was thrilled to have this option become a reality."

National School Lunch and Breakfast program regulations mandate the fat content in flavored milk sold in cafeterias cannot be above 1 percent. Contoocook originally only offered flavored whole milk, which is usually 4 percent milk-fat, but produced a 1 percent low-fat milk to meet the needs of Oyster River Middle and High Schools.

Contoocook Creamery also donated a refrigerated dispenser to each school's cafeteria so students can pour their own 8-ounce cups of milk. The Child Nutrition Program also purchased reusable cups and dishwasher racks for the milk, as the cafeterias previously offered milk in cartons and didn't have cups available. In all, the cups and dishwasher racks cost the Child Nutrition Program $572.

"Students seem to really enjoy having access to fresh, local milk at school, and it's been wonderful to see their excitement over a healthier alternative that supports a local business," Demers said. "Exposing our students to healthier lifestyle choices and supporting good habits is at the heart of everything we do through the Child Nutrition Program."

For now, Oyster River Cooperative School District elementary schools will continue to serve their milk in cartons, Morse said.