We believe all children and families deserve access to healthy, wholesome foods like milk and dairy foods, and that milk and dairy foods are part of daily healthy eating patterns and a solution to optimal health. This value drives our work in supporting food access programs, policies and collaboratives that help ensure all children and families—especially those living in vulnerable communities—have access to the nutritious, wholesome foods they need to be nourished and healthy.
In 2019–2020, Dairy Council of California partnered with 28 school districts across the state to implement low- and no-cost strategies to improve students’ consumption of healthy foods and reduce food waste. We worked side by side with local schools to implement Smarter Lunchrooms Movement (SLM) strategies that equip and empower school foodservice professionals with resources to improve students’ food intake.
SLM is a nutrition education initiative that supports food access and promotes healthy eating behaviors through staff trainings and resources to integrate healthy eating messages in school cafeterias. Evidence-based strategies nudge students to choose and eat more healthfully by making whole, nutritious foods—including milk and dairy foods—more visually prominent and accessible. Research shows that when children have access to and consume nutritious foods like dairy foods, vegetables, fruits and whole grains they perform better in school. When food access is coupled with nutrition education, students can make the connection between healthy eating lessons in the classroom
and choices they make in the cafeteria and at home.
When schools and school cafeterias closed their doors practically overnight, the work of ensuring children and their families were supported to get access to school meals became a high priority at Dairy Council of California. Each year, federal school meal programs serve 4.9 billion lunches and 2.45 billion breakfasts, with the vast majority of students coming from low-income households and relying on school meals for nourishment.
The abrupt school closures created confusion as millions of students, families and communities throughout California were left wondering if food was still available for children. There was no easy way to find locations serving free school meals.
To support all California families and school communities, Dairy Council of California partnered with California Milk Processor Board to develop HealthyEating.org/SchoolMeals and drive a statewide public awareness campaign supporting efforts to nourish vulnerable children, families and communities. Initially created to aggregate participating school meal sites in the state, the landing page eventually expanded to include food bank locations and distance learning nutrition resources, all conveniently housed in one place. The campaign and landing page were highly successful and became a valued resource to California school districts and communities, supporting 528,797 site visits, including 467,823 unique views. Approximately 40% of viewers sought information in Spanish.
In 2019–2020, through the collective efforts of Dairy Council of California and its partners, we successfully informed 19 policies that champion milk and dairy foods in healthy eating patterns and educated over 1 million students and families in California through our nutrition education curriculum and the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement.
These efforts included invaluable input and contributions to educate and inform policy and guidelines in collaboration with state, national and international dairy group partnerships. Beyond nutrition science translation, review, and revision of nutrition content, we:
Our team also submitted public comments to inform the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to emphasize dairy’s important role in nourishing children and families, its role in healthy eating patterns and the critical need to include dairy in dietary recommendations to ensure all children are supported for optimal growth, development, health and success. To empower our industry partners, we shared our public comments and provided a template to support those interested in submitting additional comments.
Elevating the dairy industry and its role in supporting healthier communities, our staff worked with U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda and his team to ensure the dairy community was included in the panel tele-discussion facilitated by the congressman to address food insecurity. Staff provided Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairies, the opportunity to shine a positive light on dairy and the dairy community’s collective efforts to support food access and nourish children, families and communities alongside regional and statewide food bank leaders.
We engaged with public health and education organizations throughout the state to make a difference. For instance, our staff partnered with the public health department in Riverside County and CalFresh Healthy Living to host a milk tasting event at Dr. Reynaldo J. Carreon Jr. Academy at Desert Sands Unified School District. We also partnered with CalFresh Healthy Living–University of California, Kings Community Action Organization, No Kid Hungry and Kings County WIC to bring awareness on food insecurity, summer meals and food access issues.
Milk and dairy foods support the optimal growth, development and health of children and families. We are grateful to work on behalf of the dairy industry to help ensure all children and families—especially those living in vulnerable communities—have access to the nutritious, wholesome foods they need to be nourished and healthy.