Your Dairy Checkoff At Work
By Tom Gallagher
Since its inception in 1915, National Dairy Council® (NDC), the nutrition research and education arm of the dairy checkoff, has had an unwavering commitment to childhood nutrition through a strategy focused on sound science promoting dairy’s role in a healthy diet.
Times are changing. Today, kids are drinking less milk and childhood obesity is turning school lunchrooms into a battleground where many foods and beverages (including dairy) have to defend their place in the cafeteria. But, with 55 million kids attending school 200 days a year, it’s a battle worth fighting … and one that dairy producers, through their investment in the dairy checkoff, are committed to winning by engaging students directly to make the necessary changes to create healthier schools and healthier children.
The commitment of America’s dairy producers remains a core priority because we know that what’s good for children’s nutrition also is good for dairy.
Earlier this year, NDC entered into a new, unprecedented partnership to help improve the health of our nation’s youth, and to help the U.S. dairy industry grow sales and establish lifelong dairy consumers. NDC established a historic public-private partnership to help defeat childhood obesity by working through our nation’s schools with the National Football League (NFL) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
This partnership was announced at a public school in New York City where I was honored to join USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, 16th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, the leaders of seven health professional organizations, representatives of major corporations, NFL players, and hundreds of students – all who pledged to support the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) in-school program.
These partners are committed to the goals of FUTP60 to empower America’s youth to live healthier by increasing student access to nutrient-rich food – including dairy – and getting 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Dairy producers, through NDC, have committed $250 million over five years ($50 million per year) to support the campaign and its goals.
This initiative comes at the right time and with the right partners. It leverages the unique strengths of all three lead organizations:
• NDC’s science-based credibility in schools and with health professionals and consumers that NDC has brought since it was first established in 1915.
• NFL’s unparalleled star power from all 32 NFL teams and its existing physical activity program (“Play 60”) help activate FUTP60 through partnerships with state and regional dairy councils in local markets.
• USDA’s legacy in establishing healthy nutrition education initiatives for all Americans, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid program.
Fuel Up to Play 60 Takes School Programs to a New Level
While national and local dairy checkoff organizations have offered nutrition education and other in-school programs in the past, FUTP60 is unique in that kids decide which programs should be implemented to best meet their school’s nutrition and fitness goals. This allows students to become active participants, energized and committed to making healthy choices and encouraging their friends, classmates and families to follow suit. Students can get involved in many ways, including:
• Working with school foodservice staff to taste-test new milk and yogurt flavors; the “winners” are then added to the permanent school menu.
• Creating an after-school walk club, and/or
• Organizing a “grab-n-go” breakfast station at a high-traffic location in the school where students can get a healthy meal (including milk and yogurt) before they start their day.
By the end of the 2009-10 school year, FUTP60 will reach more than 60,000 schools. That’s two-thirds of our nation’s public schools and nearly 36 million students!
Outside partners include major companies that provide funding to further reward those schools that adopt healthy eating behaviors in accordance with the MyPyramid model and develop innovative ways to help youth achieve 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
These efforts not only will create healthier youth, but also will help protect dairy’s place in schools and increase access to kid-friendly dairy products in schools. As school nutrition guidelines become increasingly restrictive, the U.S. dairy industry must provide great-tasting, quality products that are lower in sugar, fat, sodium, and total calories. That’s why the dairy checkoff continues to work with industry leaders to not only provide students the products they want, when and where they want them, but – aligned with the goals of FUTP60 – to create healthier schools by increasing dairy availability throughout the school and by spurring product innovation. Efforts include:
• Expanding the New Look of School Milk program (already available in nearly 11,000 schools nationwide), which works to increase the availability of white and flavored milk available in plastic bottles on the school meal line,
• Working with a dairy industry leader to develop a “healthier” school pizza that offers tasty, lower-fat, lower-sodium cheese,
• Developing additional milk flavors in schools that meet with school total sugar and calorie guidelines,
• Increasing the number of schools that adopt “Breakfast in the Classroom” (which includes milk and yogurt), and
• Exploring additional dairy consumption opportunities at lunch and snack times.
As demonstrated here, the combined power of the NFL, USDA and NDC working together toward a common vision can create a real, lasting – and needed – change to improve the health of our nation’s youth, and can help create sustained growth opportunities for dairy.
To learn more about FUTP60 and the movement to help defeat childhood obesity, visit www.fueluptoplay60.com.
■ Tom Gallagher is chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI), the domestic and international planning and management organization that works to increase sales of and demand for U.S.-produced dairy products and ingredients on behalf of America’s dairy producers. For more information on dairy checkoff programs, visit www.dairycheckoff.com.