Dairy foods are in an increasingly competitive environment where alternative beverages are vying for the attention of consumers and their grocery dollars. And while these alternative beverages may be trendy, they lack the strong nutritional portfolio of milk.

Imagine if all of us in the industry worked together to talk consistently and often about this strong nutritional portfolio, the benefits of healthy eating habits and the ability of nutritious dairy foods to improve health? At Dairy Council of California, we believe doing so can create greater collective impact.

Whether you are a producer, processor, trade association or other stakeholder, focusing on health — and the ability of dairy to improve health — is critical to making a difference. Through more touch points, more venues and more organizations advancing common messages and agendas, we can be more effective than any one entity on its own.

For Dairy Council of California, this means remaining steadfast in our commitment to a cause the dairy industry embraced nearly 100 years ago: elevating the health of children and parents in California through the pursuit of lifelong healthy eating habits with milk and dairy foods as a cornerstone.

We reinforce this cause within our organization, as well as with groups that share our passion for encouraging healthy eating behaviors and those who value milk and dairy foods.

Nutrition education goes mobile

Our school nutrition curriculum remains our foundation. Print programs are increasingly being strengthened by tools like video, internet and social media that encourage new methods of learning. In fact, Dairy Council of California recently introduced its first 100% online program called “Eat Move Win.” Accessible on computer, tablet or smartphone, the program is designed for high school students and provides them the opportunity to assess their food choices and identify ways to make small improvements without sacrificing taste. This is especially important during high school years, traditionally a time when milk consumption declines.

Classroom-based programs gain extra momentum with Mobile Dairy Classroom which teaches students enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade about cow anatomy, cow care on the farm, all five food groups, the milking process and agriculture technology.

Students put their healthy eating knowledge to the test in cafeterias, where Dairy Council of California has trained school foodservice directors on Smarter Lunchrooms Movement strategies that use creative displays, enticing offerings and numerous options to nudge students to select healthy foods.

All of this is designed to amplify the benefits of milk and dairy foods within the context of healthy eating patterns.

Sharing a passion

While students receive nutrition education at numerous touch points through Dairy Council of California, the span of messages about dairy benefits is extended by numerous partnerships.

With the California School-Based Health Alliance, we provide online resources and host webinars for educators about the benefits of dairy foods and the importance of proper nutrition as a foundation for student success.

Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Education, United Way and others, we’ve supported the Summer Food Service Program, which provides free, nutritious meals with foods from all five food groups to children during the summer.

Together with the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we’ve organized a public policy education program that includes creating monthly nutrition messages sent to all California legislators to help protect milk’s position in a healthy diet.

We’ve also partnered with the Tribune Content Agency to provide weekly articles on topics like healthy recipes and the value of dairy foods. These articles are delivered to more than 100 publications across the United States.

You can play a role

Are you doing your part to tell the story of milk and dairy foods and the benefits of lifelong healthy eating habits? Whether on product packaging or in educational materials, the more of us who highlight the benefits of healthy eating habits with milk and dairy foods as a cornerstone, the more effective we will be.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this approach and how we can work together to advance the cause we all so dearly believe in: healthier children and parents with healthy eating habits that include dairy foods.