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Local heroes: Dairy farmers help feed kids and move milk over the summer

Published on 12 September 2016

Dairy farmers, through their promotion checkoff investment, made it a better summer for a lot of kids again through summer feeding programs that bring milk and other nutritious foods to those in need across the country.

It’s a sad fact that many children get most of their daily nutrition while at school, and sadder still that when school ends in May or June, they and their parents feel they have nowhere to turn. Dairy farmers have helped solve that problem.

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The USDA’s Summer Meals Program has been around since the late 1960s with the goal of serving free healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas. It’s federally funded but state-administered, so the real action to get hungry kids good food happens locally, which is where your dairy checkoff comes in.

The success of the checkoff’s “Fuel Up to Play 60” in-school nutrition and physical activity program, which is a partnership of the National Dairy Council and the National Football League with support from the USDA, prompted the USDA to ask us to play a key role in its summer feeding efforts.

They witnessed first-hand the power of your local checkoff promotion staffs working with schools, businesses and local governments to bring about positive change while moving more dairy through schools and in the community. And the USDA recognizes and values the 100-year equity of the checkoff’s National Dairy Council.

Today, local checkoff staffs work closely with those same schools, sponsors, state departments of agriculture and education and others to promote free nutritious meals over the summer.

Through summer feeding in 2015, kids ate up dairy to the tune of approximately 87 million pounds of milk or the annual average milk production of 3,885 cows – a nice additional outlet for your dairy at a time of traditionally high production. And when kids come back to school in the fall, having eaten better for the last three months, they come back ready to learn.

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Why summer feeding matters

Beyond the obvious benefits of being active in summer feeding – moving more dairy and helping our future consumers lead healthier lives – there are other reasons the checkoff plays a part.

Working with the USDA on programs such as this builds collaboration, which reflects well on dairy farmers. In addition, it ties dairy even tighter to districts across the country, and that’s important as schools continue to be a battleground for childhood nutrition.

Dairy’s place in schools is crucial to our future. Anything we can do to demonstrate our value to schools will help keep milk, cheese and yogurt in students’ hands.

All of this ultimately leads to increased consumer confidence in dairy products and dairy farmers. That’s the basis for more buying decisions as more and more influence shifts to the millennial population.

When people believe you are doing the right thing – from feeding those in need, to treating your animals well, to being environmentally friendly – it is far easier to get them to buy your products, keep buying your products, and tell their friends to do the same.

Sometimes, doing the right thing is more than just its own reward.  end mark

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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.

On the Web

  • The USDA’s summer meals program – Go to Summer Food Service Program for more information.

  • Fuel Up to Play 60 – Visit Fuel Up to Play 60 to see the many ways farmers and the NFL are helping students across the country.

  • Dairy.org – Visit Dairy Management Inc to learn more about your checkoff and find links to your local promotion organizations.

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