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While sports schedules changed from week to week and even day to day over the past year, student-athletes could depend on chocolate milk after practice or games thanks to Chocolate Milk Nature’s Sports Drink Grants from Michigan dairy farmers and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM).
Michigan student-athletes participating on more than 280 athletic teams during the 2020 – 2021 school year refueled with “Nature’s Sports Drink” through the grant program started by Michigan dairy farmers in 2011.
The grants enable school sports teams to purchase low-fat chocolate milk to help student-athletes refuel after practices, games and competitions and develop life-long habits of drinking milk.
“As part of the program, which is proudly funded by dairy farmers, the UDIM team helps Chocolate Milk Grant recipients learn about the importance of nutrition in sport,” says Sharon Toth, UDIM CEO.
“These points include information about hydration, what to eat and when to eat it, the importance of dairy, including chocolate milk as a recovery drink, as well as the role sleep plays in recovery and health,” she says. “Additionally, many school teams provide nutrition education to peers, younger students and parents via virtual meetings, social media and in-person.”
Since the program began 10 years ago, more than 2,200 Chocolate Milk Grants have been awarded to help make a difference in the diets and nutritional knowledge of student athletes. Chocolate milk is a wholesome choice students can make at home or school to meet the Dietary Guidelines recommendation to include three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk in their diet every day.
“Chocolate milk provides many important nutrients needed for overall health, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D,” says Melissa Gerharter, Executive Director of UDIM Youth Wellness Programs. “Coaches and athletes are excited about chocolate milk and the resources we provide, often using the milk and materials as conversation starters about the importance of good nutrition. Milk supplied through the grant also helps student-athletes and their families fill the hunger gap at home, underscoring dairy farmer commitment to helping meet community needs.”
Despite lingering challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, coaches and athletes continued their dedication to their sport, their team and giving back to local communities. As a component of the grant, many school teams elect to support those in need within their own communities.
For instance, the Petoskey High School boy’s hockey program donated 50% of gate revenue from dedicated home games to community outreach efforts, donating $500 for milk to a local food pantry. And Traverse City Central High School capitalized on virtual networks to raise $500 for its school food pantry through an email and text campaign.
“We’re excited to see these efforts continue to develop and extend in scope,” says Gerharter. “The Chocolate Milk Grant program delivers excellent nutrition and so much more.”
Applications for winter 2020 – 2021 Chocolate Milk Grants open the first week of August, with completed applications due Oct. 8, 2021. To learn more, visit milkmeansmore.org/schools-educators/grants/.
About the United Dairy Industry of Michigan
The United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) is dedicated to serving Michigan's hard-working dairy farm families and promoting Michigan's locally produced dairy products. UDIM is the umbrella organization for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council of Michigan. These non-profit organizations provide dairy product promotion and nutrition education services on behalf of their funding members.