When we think about the key influences future dairy consumers have when it comes to making daily food choices, schools stand out as one of the most important places for the dairy industry to connect with students and school nutrition professionals in meaningful ways. Schools serve as far and away the largest “restaurant” in their local communities – millions of students rely on school meals as their main source of nutrition. And food plays a critical role for students in this environment – nourishing minds, fueling bodies and providing the enjoyment kids rely on to succeed in the classroom and in life.
    For this age group and in this setting, we have an amazing opportunity to connect the next generation of consumers with dairy foods they can love and enjoy for years to come. As we head into a new school year, Midwest Dairy is strategically working with schools to ensure dairy is accessible for students at a variety of creative touch points throughout the day – to provide nutrients, build trust with these future consumers and drive dairy demand.
    Knowing the role food and nutrition play for students in fueling a successful school day, Midwest Dairy is working with school partners throughout the Midwest to develop creative solutions for how they make dairy foods available, especially for students who may have left home on an empty stomach. More specifically, Midwest Dairy is focused on making sure nutritious and delicious dairy products are readily available throughout the day – whether it’s second-chance breakfast, grab-and-go breakfast carts, breakfast in the classroom, lunch or after-school snack options.
    One key to our success is tapping into trends young consumers enjoy. An option that’s growing in popularity is smoothies, for their convenience and ability to help kids get their daily servings of dairy, packing a one-two punch with milk and yogurt. Thanks to their health profile, smoothies are now considered a reimbursable school meal when paired with another food such as a whole grain, making them an even smarter options for school districts, and a trendy choice for schools to offer. Midwest Dairy is helping schools throughout its 10-state region implement smoothie programs, by funding equipment needed to make smoothies in addition to providing resources and recipes to launch or expand smoothie programs in districts.
    Another creative way we’re working with schools is offering students access to dairy through hot chocolate milk programs that encourage more dairy consumption throughout the day while providing students with a novel treat, similar to what they could find in a trendy coffee shop. Midwest Dairy is helping schools to implement these programs by providing equipment and resources to maximize their efforts and help get more dairy into kids’ hands – and we’re hearing teachers are excited about these offerings, too. These school programs have a real impact on dairy sales, not to mention the demand they fuel into the future.
    Outside of supporting these programs, educating schools and students about the dairy industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship is also fundamental to our work. Younger generations have an appetite for learning more about food – what it can do for them as well as how food selections help them be responsible consumers that show care for the earth and animals, too. Programs such as Fuel Up to Play 60 help teach students about healthy living, including how dairy is responsibly and sustainably produced. Dairy has such a positive story to tell when it comes to the nutritional benefits it offers students and faculty. Knowing our audience and what they want from their food, we take the opportunity to highlight dairy’s role in everything from immune function to digestive benefits, calming effects and more.
    With schools back in session, Midwest Dairy’s focus will continue to be integrating positive dairy experiences that provide important nutrition to youth in need, instill a love of dairy with future consumers and drive dairy demand now. It’s the right thing to do to provide for children who need access to nutritious food, and it’s a perfect opportunity to connect with tomorrow’s shoppers. The future success of our kids – and dairy – depend on it.