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Checkoff Watch: Fuel Up to Play 60’s Foundation built for next chapter

Contributed by Anne Warden Published on 25 May 2021
Checkoff Watch

Consumers have an expectation of companies and industries to give back and have a purpose beyond profits. It’s a part of doing business.

Dairy farmers were ahead of the game when they created Fuel Up to Play 60 in partnership with the National Football League (NFL) in 2010. Our in-school health and wellness program has laid the groundwork and made critical connections with more than 73,000 schools and communities. This foresight has set us up for success in a way many other companies and industries would love to have.

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It’s important that we’re not playing from behind as we talk about the next chapter of Fuel Up to Play 60. We know that if it is to remain relevant and a valuable investment, we must continue modernizing and evolving our connection with schools. This includes how kids learn about dairy and how they experience dairy in the cafeteria.

Amid the many challenges of 2020, Fuel Up to Play 60 not only maintained its place in schools; it was expanded. In a world of digital learning, we saw educators hungry for resources that connected a healthy and active lifestyle to emotional wellness and caring for the community and planet. Our resources – many featuring farmers and the work you do every day – fit the bill.

The content is available at our “Homeroom” page at www.FuelUpToPlay60.com and has set us up well to maintain our e-learning presence. We’re getting dairy’s story into the hands of teachers and parents, whose role of home educator has grown.

Reaching target audience

Kids drinking milk

The sweet spot of Fuel Up to Play 60 is students in fifth through eighth grade who are part of the Gen Z audience (ages 10 to 23). Educators of this grade range have the potential to reach 55 million students every day. Fuel Up to Play 60 gives us a chance to connect with them.

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While Gen Z was around for the launch of Fuel Up to Play 60, so much has since changed in our society and the way they consume information. Being socially conscious and doing what they believe to be right for the health of the planet top their priority list.

Social media is their key source of information; it’s also their avenue to call out companies and industries they feel aren’t delivering on their values. They know they have seemingly unlimited options for food and beverages, and they have no issue with departing an entire category. This is both our challenge and our opportunity. And it’s a major reason why it’s critical we have an established foothold in schools and a chance to reach them now.

The good news is: Dairy has long had the sustainability story they seek, and it’s incorporated into the Homeroom curriculum delivered by the most credible voices we have – our dairy farmers.

Building trust is just part of our Fuel Up to Play 60 goals. We also are looking to enhance how milk is served at schools. We can tell students all day long that dairy is good for them, but their experience must live up to expectations. They demand milk that mirrors the products they receive elsewhere; it’s about exciting packaging and flavors and making sure it’s served cold.

There are encouraging solutions that could revolutionize school milk, starting with improved packaging. There are shelf-stable and bulk dispensing systems that yield consistently cold milk and meet schools’ demands for improved sustainability.

Through continuous pilots and evaluation, we will build a business case and may eventually be able to offer equipment grant opportunities through Fuel Up to Play 60. Gen Z’s changing expectations for food also open opportunities to find new places for dairy on menus, and your checkoff continues to use its relationships to bring those to life. From smoothies to hot chocolate to breakfast on-the-go, we are evolving how checkoff investments can secure dairy’s place in schools.

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Imagine trying to implement these programs without a deep history with schools and the relationships we have built. Educators and school officials see Fuel Up to Play 60 as a nationally recognized brand with a strong legacy of caring for kids.

Power of the NFL

Relationships have been so critical throughout our history. I’ll start with those the state and regional checkoff teams have with their local schools. Fuel Up to Play 60 doesn’t exist without these extraordinary efforts.

But we also wouldn’t be where we are without another partner: the NFL. The league brings a “sizzle” to schools, and it has built a loyal and passionate connection with fans of all ages.

Much of this starts with NFL players. Think about the influence they have on kids, including what they eat. A child’s mindset can change instantly, and we’ve been fortunate to have many players share how dairy is part of their diets. These stories are often posted on their social media channels.

The NFL truly cares about our industry. Commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken to farmers, including checkoff board members, and the league’s marketing team did a virtual farm tour to get to know the people behind our industry.

For this school year, Fuel Up to Play 60 will follow a football-themed approach: “Dairy Fuels Your Game Day And Every Day Is Game Day.” The idea is to promote how dairy can fuel students’ performance during four quarters of their day: breakfast, school, after school and family time. Our overriding message is: Dairy is good for your body and good for your brain, both in school and out.

While Fuel Up to Play 60 has delivered results and maintained dairy’s presence in schools, we feel that maybe the best is yet to come as we find new and exciting ways to engage and activate Gen Z.

Thanks to farmers’ vision to build this program, we have a very rich legacy. Their vision also sets us up for a bright future. end mark

To learn more about your national dairy checkoff, visit U.S. Dairy or send a request to join our Dairy Checkoff Farmer Group on Facebook. To reach us directly, send an email to .

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.

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