I recently joined Jackson Middle School students in San Antonio, Texas, to help kick-off their Fuel Up to Play 60 program. The timing was right since September was National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. With the dual messages of eating healthy and being physically active, Fuel Up to Play 60 goes hand-in-hand with our mission at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. That’s why USDA is a partner in the program with the National Dairy Council and the National Football League.
Dairy MAX, the local dairy council affiliate, the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, and the school coordinated the Fuel Up to Play 60 kick-off event in the North East Independent School District. The school principal and staff are enthusiastic supporters of the program.
Former NFL star Priest Holmes participated in a school pep rally to get students excited about “fueling up” with healthy nutrient rich foods and “playing 60” minutes every day. It was great to see the excitement the Fuel Up to Play 60 program generated among the students. The football player and school cheerleaders got the students and teachers pumped up for an exciting obstacle course competition. The enthusiasm carried over to eating lunch from the salad bar and milk station in the cafeteria.
Mike Konkle, general manager of Dairy MAX, said, “When you tie FUTP60, school meals and support from teachers, parents, and led by the students, you have a program with the potential to make a significant difference in the lives and health of children.” He’s right; partnerships like this can create a powerful impact. And, it’s the buy-in by students that makes all the difference.
Konkle said that the kids were actually excited about the vegetables, milk, and even the yogurt. Dairy MAX grant money was used to purchase cow-spotted milk coolers for each of the 20 middle and high school campuses in San Antonio’s Northeast ISD. The milk coolers accompany salad bars in the cafeterias and provide a quick and healthy lunch option for students.
The Fuel Up to Play 60 partnership represents an unprecedented pledge to our kids to help get them moving toward physical fitness and health, a key element of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. Featuring school nutrition programs such as the Healthier US Schools Challenge, the USDA is also a leading partner of the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.It is all about empowering youth to make positive changes in food choices and physical activity to curb the childhood obesity epidemic. I believe that the program is also a great example of how creative partnerships between federal, non-profit and private organizations can work together to help inspire healthy eating and physical activity in children.