NDC, USDA and NFL Join Forces for School Wellness

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has joined a campaign to fight and defeat childhood obesity in cooperation with the NFL, National Dairy Council, multiple health organizations and several major corporations.

The campaign, known as Fuel Up to Play 60, is funded with an initial private sector financial commitment of $250 million over five years by America’s dairy farmers. Funding is expected to grow as government, business, communities and families join this effort to improve nutrient-rich food choices and achieve 60 minutes of physical activity each day among children. More than 58,000, or 60%, of the nation’s 96,000 private and public schools are currently enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60.

“This unprecedented partnership will help educate our youth about steps they can and should take to lead healthy lives,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Increasing access to more nutrient-rich foods and physical activity in America’s schools is no simple task, and will require the combined effort of private and public interests. Partnerships like these, combined with a strong reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs, can make a significant difference in our battle against childhood obesity.”

Vilsack joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc., the managing organization for National Dairy Council; and other health and education leaders at a New York City public school recently to support and promote the initiative.

Based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the program empowers students in grades 4 through 10 to engage their peers to “fuel up” with nutrient-rich foods they often lack – particularly low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains – and “get up and play” with 60 minutes of daily physical activity. The program’s design allows youths and schools to determine which tools and resources best help schools meet local youth wellness goals and school wellness policies. The program taps the power of the NFL and its teams, players and physical activity programming to add recognition and value for students. All 32 NFL teams are participating in the program through local dairy councils and schools in their respective markets.

“Fuel Up to Play 60 realizes our commitment to child health and sustaining the future,” Gallagher said. “It will continue to expand in the coming years through bold leadership and new partnerships with organizations and industry leaders that no single organization could achieve alone.”

More information about Fuel Up to Play 60 is available at FuelUpToPlay60.com.

Vilsack Announces Members of Dairy Advisory Committee

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the appointment of 17 members to the federal Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from three IDFA member companies. Over the next two years, committee members will review farm milk price volatility, as well as dairy farmer profitability and consolidation, and will recommend ways that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can address the needs of the dairy industry.

“IDFA appreciates Secretary Vilsack’s willingness to listen to the concerns and recommendations of dairy producers and processors,” said Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO. “We’re confident the selected processor representatives will draw on their extensive industry experience to provide valuable insight and recommend long-term solutions that benefit the entire industry.”

The representatives from IDFA member companies are Jay Bryant, CEO, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association; Patricia Stroup, group manager, dairy, Nestle USA Inc.; and Sue Taylor, vice president, dairy policy and procurement, Leprino Foods Co. Robert Wills, president, Cedar Grove Cheese Inc., was also appointed to the committee.

Nutrition labeling

In comments filed in late December, IDFA applauded the FDA’s proposal to study how consumers perceive and use nutrition symbols on front-of-package labeling. However, IDFA reinforced its belief that nutrition symbols should remain voluntary and expressed concerns about the content and approach of the consumer study.

“We appreciate FDA’s plan to conduct consumer testing before releasing guidance on nutrition symbols,” IDFA wrote. “These results need to be carefully studied before FDA moves forward, so that the messages and implications of these labeling symbols are understood.”

IDFA noted that consumers are encountering various sources of nutrition information in grocery stores. Many retailers are incorporating nutrition scoring programs, such as the NuVal system used by HyVee and Meijer stores or Guiding Stars used by Hannaford and Food Lion. Because this information is included on shelf tags, which fall under FDA’s definition of “labeling,” IDFA believes these types of scoring systems should be included in the study.

Nutrients to encourage and discourage also should be included in the study, IDFA said, in keeping with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. Also, IDFA encouraged FDA to take care when developing the survey questions and to avoid language that could bias consumer response and skew survey results.