September 27 marked National Chocolate Milk Day, and Mary Willcome, dairy farmer of Marne, MI, took the opportunity to make this day a special one for the Coopersville High School Football team. Through a social media contest hosted by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), individuals nominated a high school athletic team of their choice for a chance to win Nature’s Sports Drink delivered to their school and a special visit from the UDIM mascot. Willcome entered Coopersville as her daughter, Karla, attends the school and is an officer in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter.
“Milk comes from Michigan cows, and it’s very important for people to know how milk is produced and that it is safe and wholesome,” says Willcome. “It blows my mind that we live in a farming community, but many kids here do not know where their milk comes from. Everyone wants to know where their food is coming from, so I think we as farmers need to provide them the education.”
In addition to Karla, Willcome’s 23-year-old son is passionate about dairy farming, as he is a fifth-generation farmer who plans to continue the family tradition.
“My son knows this job takes hard work and long hours, but he really loves what he does,” says Willcome. “I think his drive is what makes his early mornings easier.”
After the long practice, the athletes were so thrilled to hear they won the contest, they began chanting Wilcome’s name when she presented the chocolate milk. Willcome noted she was ecstatic to see how the athletes were interested in learning more about dairy farming and chocolate milk’s essential nutrients, like calcium, potassium and vitamin D.
Not only does dairy farming hit close to home for Willcome, varsity football head coach, Ed Kaman also shares close ties with the farming community. Growing up, Kaman worked on a small dairy farm.
“It surely is an experience I will never forget,” said Kaman. “As a kid, I spent a lot of my time milking Holstein cows. It’s fun sharing these stories with my team and seeing their reaction because a lot of these kids just don’t know about dairy farming.”
UDIM briefly shared why chocolate milk is often referred to as Nature’s Sports Drink.
“It’s important for athletes to put the nutrients they left on the field back into their bodies after a hard game or practice,” says Melissa Gerharter, Registered Dietitian and Manager of Sports Nutrition Marketing at UDIM. “Low-fat chocolate milk is a great option after physical activity because it rehydrates and provides the carbs and protein to refuel.”
For best results, Gerharter recommends athletes should aim to drink chocolate milk within 30 minutes post-exercise.
“I am so excited UDIM was able to speak with us on the benefits of chocolate milk for athletes,” says Kaman. “Chocolate milk is a healthy choice and a drink I want my team to take advantage of when refueling. Not to mention, it also tastes great, so my boys don’t complain.”
High school sports teams in Michigan can apply for chocolate milk grants for their athletic program through UDIM. With this grant, teams are able to purchase low-fat chocolate milk to replenish after practices and games for the entire season. To apply, you can visit https://www.milkmeansmore.org/schools-educators/grants/ or contact UDIM at 517-349-8923. The deadline to apply for the winter season is October 6.
About the United Dairy Industry of Michigan
The United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) is Milk Means More, which serves as the umbrella organization for the Dairy Council of Michigan and the American Dairy Association of Michigan. On behalf of Michigan’s dairy farm families, these non-profit organizations provide science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier society, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. For more information, visit MilkMeansMore.org.