Dairy farmers know one of the best sources of nutrition for students is dairy and have been committed to youth wellness for decades. By responsibly producing dairy, farmers are not only feeding people but nourishing communities through addressing food insecurity challenges in schools. To continue this effort on behalf of local dairy farmers, Dairy MAX recently launched the Nutrition NOW platform as a full-service solution that offers school nutrition departments expertise and opportunities to increase dairy consumption within schools.
“During these challenging times it is so important to be innovative and effective as we work to promote dairy,” said Annelies DeRuyter, dairy farmer and Dairy MAX board member. “As dairy farmers we are passionate about feeding the next generation, so I was excited to hear about the upgraded program, Nutrition NOW, which will help Dairy MAX work with schools more efficiently and serve more of the nutritious dairy that kids need.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic making it challenging for local schools to package and distribute school meals, Nutrition NOW helps provide schools the resources needed to nourish students with dairy foods. Additionally, Dairy MAX’s team of School Wellness Consultants has come along side school nutrition teams to better understand the uncertainties around re-entry plans and school feeding to provide further support.
“This school year we are isolating our focus to getting more milk and dairy in the hands of students quickly to allow students to continue to be successful in school, while also creating the greatest return for our dairy farmers,” said Alyson Kirchner, Vice President of School Marketing for Dairy MAX.
Nutrition NOW offers expertise, program marketing, and funding to help schools implement meal solutions like grab-and-go breakfast, bulk milk, meals in the classroom, smoothies, yogurt parfaits, high school coffee bars, afterschool meals and summer feeding. Dairy MAX views the program as an important investment and offers start-up funding for schools to implement these dairy meal solutions on their campus. Eligible schools interested in funding will go through an application process in the fall and spring, which aligns with the traditional procurement cycle for school nutrition programs.
“School nutrition programs are on the frontline of fighting childhood hunger and ensuring all students have access to nutritious foods like dairy,” said Kirchner. “Nutrition NOW provides them with expert support, customized resources and start-up funding to help grow their meal service and feed more kids. Additionally, we’ve strengthened the Nutrition NOW grant evaluation process to determine where our dairy farmer funds are best invested.”
To provide further assistance to schools during the pandemic, Dairy MAX is working with GENYOUth and other partners to provide emergency grants that support serving dairy through meal delivery and curbside feeding locations. To-date, these grants have helped nearly 400 local schools serve more than 440,000 meals daily.
Dairy MAX continues to provide resources to help schools promote dairy science and share the farm to table story.
Providing these resources virtually through eLearning has never been more important, and Dairy MAX is addressing this need with new online Farm to School curriculum lessons and activities.
The online resources will also be included with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) kits distributed to schools throughout the region. Digital resources such as the FUTP 60 Virtual Homeroom have been created to engage students, parents and educators about topics like health and wellness, dairy farming and sustainability. The FUTP 60 program will remain a connection point to promote the importance of nutritious dairy foods and physical activity.
Dairy MAX continues to be a one-stop shop of dairy solutions for schools by adapting programs and initiatives to meet schools in their challenges, furthering the effort of dairy farmers to feed people and nourish communities. Learn more at DairyMAX.org.