Farm to School - A Strategic Approach To Increase Demand For Dairy
What do school districts and dairy farmers have in common? Public education and production agriculture may initially seem unrelated, but the two sectors actually have a very common goal. Alyson Kirchner, VP of School Sales, Marketing and Operations for Dairy MAX says that connection was made through a complete market analysis and systematic identification of areas for growth.
“The school marketing team took a deep dive into data and metrics. We looked at school district data, such as average daily participation with school meals, enrollment data and growth, and current breakfast programs,” Kirchner says. “Our strategy is to work at the highest level which is a district-wide approach focused around an entire school district versus one or a few schools within a district.”
By executing an industry-wide, market driven business plan, Dairy MAX is investing resources in a strategic approach that provides the best possible economic advantage to dairy farm families. Schools provide the most advantageous target area because the audience is continually revolving and growing.
“Schools are the greatest sphere of influence in reaching most children and adolescents, and those students will be making consumer decisions for the rest of their lives,” Kirchner says. “We also focus on educating teachers, school staff and parent volunteers about the benefits of including dairy in a healthy diet. These adults are key role models for school-aged children, so they are teaching kids what to value and what is important in their communities.”
Children spend around 1,200 hours per year in school, and education curriculum standards for health include nutrition and physical education. That’s why Dairy MAX is promoting and aligning key programs including Fuel Up To Play 60, the nation’s leading in-school wellness program, and Dairy Dollars for Schools, which is a solution-based program providing tools to expand school breakfast programs. By helping school districts utilize our expertise, they are learning to implement programs like Breakfast in the Classroom or Grab-and-Go. Ultimately, they are meeting and surpassing their school wellness goals all while getting kids to drink more milk.
“Our mission is to increase the demand for dairy products, and the more school educators know about dairy, the more they will engage.” Kirchner says. “Within the past year alone, we have helped train well over 3,300 participants working in education throughout Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.”
School districts utilize Dairy MAX as a resource and an expert. Information and tools are available to educators online at DairyMAX.org and for a more customized experience, the Dairy MAX region is aligned to have local wellness consultants available to school districts.
“These school marketing efforts may seem like the opposite end of the spectrum compared to where our farm families are producing dairy every day, but ultimately we are working for our farmers,” Kirchner says. “Our over-arching goal is to increase the demand for dairy, and that means strategically marketing the goodness of dairy.”