ROSEMONT, ILL. – The dairy checkoff announced its school wellness program, after a 13-year partnership with the NFL, will now be called Fuel Up and implement a new approach, with a goal of connecting with more partners to support the dairy industry’s role in youth wellness.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) shared that the transition will allow the organization to co-create programs that support youth wellness, and it plans for Fuel Up to engage youth and parents outside of school buildings, as well.

Per DMI, Fuel Up “will work with schools and partners to deliver solutions and resources that increase access to milk and other dairy products, expand meal participation and find ways to educate students on how nutrition plays an important role in physical wellness and academic achievement.”

What’s more, the checkoff’s plans include making learning resources available and including dairy-focused STEM curriculum.

“This is our opportunity to reinforce dairy’s support for greater access to nutrition in cafeterias and classrooms but do it in new and more effective ways,” said Barbara O’Brien, chief executive officer and president of DMI. “Fuel Up to Play 60 [the name of the program during its partnership with the NFL] helped secure the reputation and legacy of dairy farmers for being champions of youth wellness, but the school environment has changed dramatically the last few years. We need to think differently to protect farmers’ ability to deliver long-term value to children and in schools.”

O’Brien explained that state and regional networks and longstanding relationships give dairy a “strong place” in schools, and how schools function varies greatly throughout the country.

“Instead of working through a singular school program, we are building a multi-partner, more flexible model that allows farmers to connect with the next generation, whether it’s a big city district far from agriculture or a small rural one,” she said.

DMI said that the Fuel Up to Play 60 program reached more than 73,000 schools and 40 million students.

Marilyn Hershey, DMI chair and a dairy farmer, said changing the Fuel Up program is one example of how the checkoff is evolving and modernizing.

“A multi-partner approach through Fuel Up will better position us to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities, while ensuring we have the opportunity to build healthy schools and thriving kids,” Hershey said.