By Susan Davis Gryder 2014-10-28 11:17:43
The National Dairy Council and its 19 state and regional affiliates can serve as your not-so-secret weapon for school nutrition success. Whether it’s supporting school meals, fighting hunger or promoting research about the benefits of dairy in our daily diets, the National Dairy Council (NDC) has been an important player on the health and nutrition scene for nearly a century. School Nutrition readers have been reading about the organization’s far-reaching efforts for decades. But what do you know about NDC’s state and regional affiliates? They do important work, too, by bringing sciencebased resources and communications expertise to support the individual needs faced by schools in their own communities. Have you ever reached out for their help with a special initiative for your school, district or SNA state association? Did you know you could? Let’s take a look at how these dairy councils work together with NDC, individual operators like you and other stakeholders in child health to create sustainable success. A Century of Achievement The National Dairy Council is turning 100 years old in 2015, and it has a lot to celebrate. “The history of NDC is amazing for me,” says NDC President Jean Ragalie-Carr, RDN, LDN. “From our founding, we’ve been steeped in nutrition science. In fact, the researcher who discovered vitamins A and D is the same scientist who worked with dairy farmers to found NDC back in 1915!” NDC has worked closely with schools on nutrition education initiatives for the majority of its history. This includes the 1929 launch of a nutrition education program that eventually laid the groundwork for the federal National School Lunch Program. “In my 20 years at NDC, I’ve worked with everyone, from the White House to the school house,” reports Ragalie-Carr. “But as much as we have accomplished together, we still have work to do. Today, one in three kids is overweight or obese—and one in five doesn’t know where his or her next meal is coming from! So schools are the lifeline to get all children the nutrition they need.” In its work with school nutrition programs, NDC supports and promotes healthy school meals, based on the latest nutrition science. It works in partnership with such federal agencies as the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Education (USDA, ED) and the National Institutes of Health. It also funds research studies at universities across the nation. “Our mission is to get that research into the hands of people who make decisions about schools,” says Ragalie-Carr, “so that school nutrition directors can take information to principals about issues like the importance of school breakfast.” NDC Vice President of Communications Erin Coffield, RDN, LDN, plays an important role, using the latest technology to spread key messages through its thedairy report.com blog and various social media forums. “We try to use different channels to talk about our partnership with school nutrition,” she explains. “We share information through digital and social channels, like Twitter [@ntldairycouncil] and Facebook [www.facebook.com/nationaldairycouncil], and make sure that we share our insights with our regional councils, so this information gets to the grassroots level.” “It’s important that we keep the focus on the value of school meals,” asserts Ragalie-Carr. “So we will keep talking about that with the USDA, the Department of Education and the White House. We want to emphasize the important role of school meals and the science that supports the need for the nutrients these meals provide for all students, and tell the story of how hard school nutrition directors are working to ensure our kids are fueled for success.” Thinking Nationally, Acting Locally While NDC maintains a strong national presence in the ongoing conversation about healthy eating, equally important is its outreach to individual school districts through its 19 state and regional dairy councils. These local dairy councils are NDC’s “boots on the ground,” often working directly with individual school nutrition operators in districts of all sizes and demographics. Local dairy councils receive a small portion from the sale of milk in their region, and this is designated to support dairy-related nutrition research and education, with a particular emphasis on schools and child nutrition. Regional councils draw on the expertise of their staffs of registered dietitians, researchers, school nutrition specialists and other experts to provide support, training and information to you on a wide array of nutrition topics. They offer many powerful tools that you can leverage as you work to support and improve your child nutrition program. You may not realize that your local dairy council will: • share with you the latest sciencebased nutrition information and research findings, so that you can use this data to improve your program and get your district administration on board about important initiatives; • help you identify available grant opportunities and assist you in crafting solid, relevant and convincing grant proposals; • sponsor training and development opportunities to help you hone your skills and prepare for professional credentialing exams, such as SNA’s School Nutrition Specialist designation; • offer messaging and marketing support to help you work with school administrators in gaining support for innovative programs like breakfast-in-the-classroom service; • develop and share nutritious recipes that are compliant with federal nutrition standards; and • sponsor training to help school cooks enhance their culinary skills in preparing menu items for both breakfast and lunch. Promoting Professional Growth Local dairy councils around the country support school nutrition directors as they improve their professional skills and advance their careers. The American Dairy Association Mideast is one regional organization that has placed a special emphasis on training and development, says June Wedd, its vice president of school marketing. One important initiative for ADA Mideast has been hosting, in cooperation with the School Nutrition Association of Ohio, a series of training opportunities to help operators prep for SNA’s SNS credentialing exam. With a curriculum developed by trainer, consultant and SN contributor JoAnne Robinett, SNS, this training was conducted as a series of webinars, with supplemental online chats that allowed participants to review the subject matter and discuss their questions with one another. After being approached about the possibility of hosting a webinar for SNA of Ohio, ADA Mideast purchased a subscription for the webinar and online chat technology. The group also gave the course heavy promotion, helping to create a buzz that yielded 50 participants—from Ohio and other nearby states. “We can’t say enough about the time and effort—and funding—that ADA Mideast gave to this project, and for being ‘brave’ with us to try something new,” credits Robinett. Jessica Shelly, MBA, REHS, SNS, director of food services, Cincinnati Public Schools, is one operator who took advantage of the training opportunity— and found it invaluable. “I’ve been an SNA member for years and I never had the confidence to go through the credentialing exam process. I would look at the requirements and think, ‘No way can I figure out where to start!’” she recounts. “But the training was led by people who are nationally recognized trainers, who know how adult learners need to be taught, covering each area of concentration. “This training addressed all different types of learners,” Shelly continues. “And it was so worth it to me to have all the materials and resources ready to click on, download and review. It allowed me to walk into the exam feeling confident and prepared—and I’m proud to say that I passed!” Cooking up Something New ADA Mideast also leverages its expertise and resources to help schools improve the nutrition and appeal of their menu offerings through its “cooking school” events—an inservice day hosted by an area school. One recent cooking school, held in Cabell County, W.Va., brought together more than 100 cooks and cafeteria supervisors from 19 surrounding counties to broaden their healthy breakfast menu options. Attendees were taught four speedscratch items that could be prepared in advance: • Peaches-and-cream Whole-grain Waffle Dunkers with Lowfat Yogurt; • Mega-cheese Muffins; • Fiesta Breakfast Swirl (made with whole grains and cheese); and • Baked Blueberry Delight (featuring oats, Greek yogurt and lots of juicy berries). These delectable breakfast offerings proved so popular that ADA Mideast sponsored three additional cooking schools in other parts of the state. Media Matters Local dairy councils have considerable experience working in the ever-changing media landscape, and they are eager to share their expertise. “We offer continuing education for school nutrition directors, and one of the most popular has been teaching people how to work with the media, especially social media,” says Erin Wholey, RD, LDN, manager of nutrition affairs for the New England Dairy and Food Council. In Massachusetts, the organization sponsored a communications training workshop led by Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, another well-regarded SN contributor and popular presenter. Some 225 directors and managers attended. “Dayle did a great job teaching participants how to craft messages that will promote school programs through social media,” reports Wholey. The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, which serves New York and parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, has conducted similar workshops, bringing together school nutrition directors and dairy farmers to learn how to get their stories to various stakeholders. “Hundreds of people have done this training over a number of years,” says Pam Rusnak, LDN, a consultant on child nutrition services for the organization. “Often, people’s greatest fear is public speaking! This training helps to calm their fears and understand how to share information with the public, highlighting their programs and answering questions.” Giving Breakfast a Boost Regional dairy councils also work closely with schools to help promote school breakfast, especially through the expansion of alternative service approaches like breakfast in the classroom (BIC). In many communities, it can be a tough challenge to convince administrators to expand school breakfast accessibility. Meghan Gibbons, RD, LDN, SNS, took on the challenge as director of nutrition services for Valley View School District 365U in Illinois. She wanted to pilot BIC at two elementary schools with the district’s highest percentage of free/reduced-price-eligible students, but, “One building, in particular, was challenging,” she recalls. “The administration was concerned about putting additional responsibilities on teachers, managing spills and trash in classrooms and determining how students would pay.” Gibbons turned to Lorna Riggs, program manager for health and wellness at the Midwest Dairy Council for help. “When I began working on breakfast in the classroom, Lorna was the first person I thought of. She put together information on breakfast in the classroom, addressing how other schools had overcome the hurdles and included success stories and the Wellness Impact report. I took these with me to meetings with administrators.” Riggs also helped Gibbons apply for (and win!) grants for equipment she needed to get the BIC pilot underway, including thermal bags and a refrigerator. “Lorna gave me links and information on the grants, and showed me how to keep it simple and address the grant criteria,” recounts Gibbons. The pilot launched in six classrooms, and then went buildingwide in both schools, offering free breakfast to all students. Participation increased to 80% at one school and 90% at the other. For Riggs, this is the role of local dairy council. “We help school nutrition [operators] access expertise,” she explains. “We help them think through the process and identify the [resources] they need to make the program work.” Gibbons thinks local dairy councils are something of a well-kept secret. “People think that dairy councils just equal milk and cheese. I don’t know that [school nutrition professionals] realize that they are a go-to resource for nutrition information and grants.” Kick-Off to Success Most School Nutrition readers probably recognize Fuel Up to Play 60, which is, of course, NDC’s signature program, developed in cooperation with the National Football League and USDA to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles for kids. While the Fuel Up to Play 60 program has a national reach, its effects are felt on a local basis in 73,000 schools across the country, and local dairy councils are available to show school nutrition directors how to get the most out of the program, from grant funding and resources to rewards and incentives. Cincinnati’s Jessica Shelly is enthusiastic about the many ways her district has benefitted from the program, thanks to the support from ADA Mideast. “Yes, we know that dairy is their focal point, but they don’t have blinders on about the importance of other healthy foods for kids,” she notes. “They helped by funding salad bars for 29 of my schools, using breakfast kiosks that turn into salad bars during lunch periods! This means that the $3,000 piece of equipment from Fuel Up to Play 60 grant is used not only for a half-hour at breakfast, but also at lunch!” ADA Mideast has been instrumental in other ways that help Shelly’s program to connect with kids and school staff alike, such as through their partnership with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. “We get great Bengals logos and prizes for our lucky sticker competitions,” reports Shelly, noting that these help to encourage participation, allowing her team to feed more kids healthy and delicious school meals. Cincinnati school administrators and teachers also have benefitted from the Fuel Up to Play 60 adult training camp, which invites participants from all areas of the school to discuss how to create a leadership mentality among students. The Rewards of Research In addition to the research conducted by NDC at the national level, local dairy councils develop research to help dairy producers and school districts understand shared customers. “We look for ways to increase dairy consumption, because we know kids need dairy’s nutrients for growth and development,” says Rusnak. “This also helps our farmers and allows us to continue to offer programs.” Rusnak offers just a few examples of how research findings from the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council were applied successfully in school nutrition operations: • Kids like milk better in plastic bottles than in cartons. The Council connected local schools with a provider who uses this kind of packaging. • Kids love flavored milk, and want as much variety as possible. • Kids prefer yogurt smoothies to cups of yogurt. The Council offered grant money to help area schools purchase institutional-sized blenders to make smoothies. Rusnak also works to disseminate research issued by various local antihunger groups. This information can help school nutrition directors when trying to make the case for change, such as the expansion of school breakfast service. Welcome a New Century Throughout its centennial year, NDC and its regional dairy councils are planning celebrations; these include a birthday bash during June Dairy Month and some special surprises at SNA’s Annual National Conference. And this 100th anniversary is the perfect occasion for you to reach out to your local dairy council, make that connection and discover the many opportunities it offers for training, grants, research and resources. After all, there’s more to a centennial than celebrating the organization’s past, says NDC’s Erin Coffield: “We’re going to use the centennial as a milestone, and also as the right time to pave a path forward into the next century. When we think about the next 100 years, we still see children and youth front and center in everything we do.” Susan Davis Gryder is a freelance writer in Silver Spring, Md. Photography by Photodisc/Thinkstock. SNAPSHOT • The National Dairy Council will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015. • Local dairy councils receive a small portion of milk sales to support dairy-related nutrition research and education. • Local councils provide research, technical assistance, grant funds and many other resources to individual school nutrition operations. Discover YOUR Local Dairy Council There are 19 state and regional dairy councils throughout the United States. These are listed below in alphabetical order, with the national organization at the end. If your state does not have its own council, use www.nationaldairycouncil.org/AboutNDC/DairyCouncilDirectory to find the organization that serves your area. • ADA Mideast www.drink-milk.com • American Dairy Association and Dairy Council www.adadc.com • American Dairy Association Indiana www.winnersdrinkmilk.com • Dairy Council of Arizona www.dairycouncilofaz.org • Dairy Council of California www.healthyeating.org • Dairy Council of Florida www.floridamilk.com • Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada www.utahdairycouncil.com • DairyMAX www.dairymax.org • Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council www.drinkmainemilk.org • Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association www.dairyspot.com • Midwest Dairy Council www.midwestdairy.com • New England Dairy & Food Council www.newenglanddairycouncil.org • Oregon Dairy Council www.oregondairycouncil.org • Southeast United Dairy Industry Association www.southeastdairy.org • United Dairy Industry of Michigan www.udim.org • United Dairymen of Idaho www.idahodairy.org • Washington State Dairy Council www.eatsmart.org • Western Dairy Association www.westerndairyassociation.org • Wisconsin Dairy Council www.eatwisconsincheese.com • National Dairy Council www.nationaldairycouncil.org
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