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Checkoff Watch: More kids, more schools and more milk: Fuel Up to Play 60 at 10

Contributed by Mark Leitner Published on 30 September 2019
School kids visiting a dairy

Dairy has nourished our country’s youth for decades in schools. In fact, milk has long been the only product mandated to be served with school meals.

And 10 years ago, your dairy promotion checkoff began an initiative that would continue to change how children enjoy and understand the nutritional value of dairy foods – and what they know about dairy farmers.

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Selfie with a calfThe Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) program – a partnership between the checkoff’s National Dairy Council (NDC) and the National Football League (NFL), with support from the USDA – went “national” in school year 2009-10 after two years of local pilot testing. FUTP 60 is all about improving youth wellness through better access to more nutritious foods, including milk, cheese and yogurt, and increased physical activity.

It’s a program like no other. It’s the largest in-school health and wellness initiative in the country, reaching 36 million-plus kids in more than 73,000 schools, including most of the largest districts. FUTP 60 wouldn’t be possible without the close collaboration of your national and local checkoff staffs who have created and executed the program for the last 10 years, leveraging the many valued assets of the NFL.

Learning about calves

The reason schools, students and farmers like FUTP 60? It brings together “business and social good” – moving more milk through schools with dairy’s future consumers, where 8 billion meals are served each year, while helping improve the lives of our country’s future leaders. And giving those students a better idea of where their milk comes from builds invaluable long-term trust in dairy farmers and all of dairy.

Part of the solution, not the problem

Back in the early 2000s, NDC saw the coming of an obesity crisis, especially troublesome in children, and we knew there would be plenty of voices calling for food restrictions in schools. We had funded and seen third-party research efforts that pointed to the nutritional value of the fats found in dairy products. So we joined former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in his call for unified action to help our nation’s youth – because we wanted to be part of the solution and not seen as part of the problem.

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NDC had been in schools for many years with our second- and fourth-grade nutrition education programs, but the impact was hard to measure. And while the programs improved overall understanding on the importance of nutrition, they didn’t necessarily inspire students to take action to improve their lives. We realized that in order to remain in schools, we needed to craft an initiative that was more than just dairy; it would include all nutritious foods.

And beyond foods, it needed to get kids up and moving. We needed a holistic effort that would have real impact and showcase dairy as a leader in overall youth wellness.

Fuel Up To Play 60

And so FUTP 60 was born. Over the last 10 years, the program has evolved, but one thing hasn’t: The NFL brings the big-name star power, with the league and all 32 teams participating. Current and former players, mascots and cheerleaders make visits to high-performing FUTP 60 schools, sometimes accompanied by local dairy farmers, helping to tell the nutrition and physical activity story.

And you should see how kids react when they get to meet a dairy farmer or visit a farm – they are thrilled, and the positive impression of what you do and the product you provide sticks with them.

More milk at breakfast

Along the way, we’ve been able to help increase access to school breakfast, including dairy, to serve an additional 3.7 million students every day. And since 2010, students have consumed an additional 1.2 billion pounds of milk at that one occasion alone.

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FUTP 60 has been so well received that we’ve been able to attract partners and funds from a diverse group of 100-plus high-profile companies, including PepsiCo, SAP and Sleep Number. The millions of dollars raised through our GENYOUth organization has displaced farmer funding, allowing your checkoff dollars to be invested in other programs that also increase sales and build consumer trust.

Because FUTP 60 isn’t a program funded by a brand, we’re able to reach kids directly in schools and elsewhere with our messaging and products, and the kids and their in-school program advisers have responded well. They aren’t shy about giving us feedback on the program, which has helped us make it more successful for the kids.

No other food has a program like dairy does. Nobody. And we’ll continue to refine and improve it as new kids enter schools each fall, giving them the FUTP 60 experience that helps keep them healthy now and dairy fans for life.  end mark

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.

Mark Leitner
  • Mark Leitner

  • Executive Vice President
  • Dairy Management Inc.

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