A Decade Makes a Difference in Youth Health and Wellness

  • Article
  • 3 min read December 22, 2016

National Dairy Council (NDC), founded by America’s dairy farmers over a century ago, has a long legacy of dedication, research and education to foster child health and wellness.

I was fortunate, as president of NDC, to have had the opportunity 10 years ago to lead the creation of Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), now the leading in-school health and wellness program in the country, reaching an estimated 38 million students. Take a look back with me at the history of FUTP 60, the progress we’ve made and strong partnerships we’ve built, as we look to continuously improve in the future.

Ten years ago we piloted an idea which became the core of what FUTP 60 is today. It stemmed from the belief that child health is fundamental because children are our future. We learned from small pilot programs that to be effective, kids needed to take the lead, coached by people within the school. In addition, improvements in nutrition and physical activity needed the full support of school administrators, teachers and school nutrition directors.

So in 2006 we brought 300 school stakeholders together in Houston, a large, multi-ethnic school district, to explore the feasibility of harnessing our collective expertise and resources to engage and empower students to be change agents for health in schools. With youth as the focus and center of our discussion, ideas, energy and excitement flowed. Everyone said a resounding “yes” to working together to accomplish the common goal of health and wellness for students.  

Partnering with the National Football League (NFL) was the spark needed to powerfully connect the nutrition assets of NDC and USDA (Fuel Up) with physical activity (Play 60) and the importance of both for good health. The power of the student to make change happen has been the secret ingredient for success.  

Now, 10 years later, back in Houston for the GENYOUth Town Hall this October, I reflected on how far we’ve come. Children in more than 73,000 schools have been given a path to change eating and exercise habits and set them on the road to a healthy future. Relationships with community and business leaders have deepened; they are engaged and ready to commit people, resources and programs to jumpstart healthy changes in schools and provide incentives for students to get involved and do more.

Last fall, FUTP 60 launched Fuel Up to Play 60 en Espańol to further reach Latino students, parents and communities with new Spanish language and culturally relevant materials. Over the years the discussion about food has changed and there is a desire within the school to understand where food comes from. The FUTP 60 program’s Playbook now includes a Farm-to-School Play, giving educators and students an opportunity to learn about modern farms, and the new perspective it brings. Many schools give students the opportunity to visit local dairy farms and meet the farmers in their community.

Health and wellness professionals, parents and teachers can all be champions for child health. You can learn more about the program by visiting the FUTP 60 website where you can find out if your local school participates. If your school does not currently participate in the FUTP 60 program, contact your local dairy council for help to get it started.