Dairy Boosts Learning and Activities in the Classroom

Oct 16, 2017
Fuel Up To Play 60

Health and wellness initiatives continue to see more emphasis from consumers and dairy farmers alike. So, it comes as no surprise these initiatives are also important in school classrooms, emphasizing a commitment to a healthy diet and exercise in tomorrow’s consumers. Dairy MAX’s long-term commitment to increase school programs promoting dairy foods and health in the classroom reflects this trend.

One program successfully working with school-aged kids is Fuel Up to Play 60. The program not only empowers students to live an active lifestyle, but also encourages them to fuel up with nutrient-rich options such as low-fat and fat-free dairy foods. Additionally, the program benefits the school districts enrolled in the program.

Dallas Independent School District knows just how impactful FUTP60 is with their students and continues to enroll more schools each year. The program requires schools to meet six steps, naturally with a football theme: Kickoff, Draft Players, Survey the Field, Eat Healthy, Game Time, and Light Up the Scoreboard. Once these steps are earned, schools earn Touchdown Banners to prominently display for recognition and encouragement.

Within the six steps, schools can qualify and earn Dairy Dollars for Schools – a mutually beneficial program to promote and increase dairy consumption while impacting the school’s bottom line too. Funded by checkoff dollars, Dairy Dollars for Schools provides grants, ideas and resources to grow the Eat Heathy (nutrition) step of FUTP60.

“Dairy Dollars for Schools is a great way for Dairy MAX to influence and build demand, by increasing dairy consumption, and also positively impacting schools’ bottom lines too,” says Mary Dickson, school wellness consultant for Dairy MAX.

Dallas ISD saw the opportunity in their 2015-16 school year and implemented a breakfast smoothie bar at all 24 high schools. The breakfast smoothies at this one school district saw an incremental increase in milk of 42,873 pounds, a 58 percent increase from the previous school year. The smoothie bar is so successful, Dallas ISD continues to offer the menu item at all campuses this school-year.

“Smoothies are a great option to increase dairy consumption,” says Dickson. “They’re quick, easy, pack a full, nutritious meal in an easy-to-go option and students love them. Breakfast in the classroom has been a great benefit, but the smoothie option at high schools has brought the emphasis back to dairy as a breakfast option with older kids.”

With FUTP60 and Dairy Dollars for Schools having continual success, Dairy MAX’s child nutrition team continues to seek ways to bring dairy to the forefront of school kids, particularly to those campuses who are not enrolled in FUTP60. Thus, Dairy MAX reached out to see if Dallas ISD had interest in a farm to school program.

Starting in the 2016-17 school year, Dickson tested a pilot DairyAmazing farm to school program with fourth graders at Henderson Elementary. The mutually beneficial program aligned with the school’s education and core curriculum, while also providing students a chance to interact with local dairy farmers, putting a face to what they were learning and getting to ask questions.

“Dairy Amazing farm to school program has four lesson plans that are all about how dairy gets farm-to-table and is a win-win for all,” adds Dickson.

The two fourth grade classrooms at Henderson completed four lesson plans in the program. One lesson in November tied to Thanksgiving and dairy cows’ diets. Another lesson allowed person-to-person interaction when a local dairy farmer in the program, Bryan Lanting, attended breakfast in the classroom during National School Breakfast Week in March.

“Bryan visiting the classroom for breakfast went over well,” says Dickson. “The kids enjoyed getting to meet the person they’ve been working on lesson plans with and just genuinely getting to know more about a dairy farmer.”

With the program’s pilot success, Dairy MAX is looking to enroll additional schools in the coming school year, increasing dairy’s influence on school-aged kids. Additionally, Dickson believes the program could serve as a play in the six steps of the FUTP60 program – furthering the popularity of Farm to Table and dairy farmers’ commitment to healthy and active lifestyles.

To learn more about FUTP60 or any of the school programs Dairy MAX supports, visit dairymax.org/programs-overview.