Fueling Up Our Youth with Dairy

Published on Mon, 04/25/2016 - 1:53pm

By David Crook

Kids develop habits at an early age — both good ones and bad ones. Too few of them these days have the good habit of eating and drinking dairy and the other foods you and I ate when we were young. So, I’ve been really excited to play a part in a great program funded by our checkoff, Fuel Up to Play 60.

The program is about health and wellness for our kids, and what’s unique is that it’s pretty much run by the kids, with student teams in schools that decide what they’ll do to improve nutrition and get more physical activity. The National Football League is a partner, which gives us access to lots of things that excite the young people, like player visits and team gear. And it lets us tell our dairy farm story to thousands and thousands of kids while they also learn about better nutrition, including dairy.

I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in some of the Fuel Up to Play 60 activity Midwest Dairy Association does in Nebraska. A couple of years ago, I was part of an event with our governor where he threw his support behind the program, the first of nine Midwest governors to do so. Since then, there have been several awards given to Fuel Up to Play 60 efforts in my home state because of what we’re accomplishing for kids.

At several events where hundreds of students came together to celebrate what they’ve done with Fuel Up to Play 60, I’ve been able to watch their enthusiasm. Current or former NFL players, and sometimes college athletes, stand up in front of those students and tell them what good nutrition and physical activity means to personal success.

I remember one who said he was never aware of how nutrition affected his body during high school, and only learned about it when he had a trainer who helped him understand how it would help his performance. What’s more, every one of those athletes does a good job of talking about dairy in their presentations, and the students listen!

These events also include a dairy farmer like me. We talk to the kids about cows and their nutrition, and about how milk comes from our farms to the schools the kids attend. I like to bring a sample of our TMR and a calf bottle. They ask questions and they walk away knowing a lot more about dairy. I like to point out that dairy farmers are just like the athletes — we have to fuel our bodies to perform our work every day.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 work done by the checkoff is also really encouraging different ways to serve school breakfast, because of what it means to being good students. Since milk is offered with every breakfast, and cheese and yogurt are also included much of the time, breakfast isn’t just good for kids; it’s good for dairy farmers. It’s pretty interesting to see how students can become involved in deciding what to offer for school breakfast and lunch. Dairy fares really well — smoothies with yogurt are a popular choice!

We already know, from research that’s been done, that 75 percent of kids involved with Fuel Up to Play 60 say they’re eating and drinking more dairy at school, and 86 percent say they’re eating and drinking more dairy at home. In my book, that’s getting kids’ nutrition back to where it ought to be. Start ’em when they’re young. They’re our best target for future dairy consumption.

David Crook and his brother, Charles, own and operate Crook Farms in Humboldt, Nebraska. They milk 100 cows and farm 2,000 acres in a second-generation family business. He serves on Midwest Dairy Association’s Nebraska Division board.