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Public schools milking students’ increased consumption of dairy products

milk dairySome Virginia public schools are increasing dairy offerings at breakfast and lunch, and hungry students are gobbling them up.

The American Dairy Association of Virginia awarded grants to middle and high schools in King William County and to Spotsylvania County high schools to increase dairy offerings.

Thanks to Virginia’s dairy farmers, “I have been able to reach more hungry students with a nutritious meal for breakfast that includes nutrient-rich dairy offerings,” exclaimed Misty Osborne, West Point public schools’ nutrition manager.

In King William County, West Point public schools used the ADA grant to start a Grab-and-Go breakfast program that includes milk, yogurt smoothies and parfaits. Two months after the program’s start last fall, breakfast participation at the schools more than doubled. Now 1,060 students are eating breakfast, including the calcium-packed dairy products.

In Spotsylvania County, the grant enabled high schools to increase the amount of yogurt served at breakfast and lunch. They purchased equipment to prepare and serve yogurt smoothies and parfaits. The ADA of Virginia helped the school district develop recipes and provided training to its cafeteria staff.

The program was so successful in the high schools that it has since expanded to two middle schools.

“I am thrilled to have found two yogurt-based breakfast items that our secondary students enjoy,” said Spotsylvania County School Nutrition Director Jill Pryor. “Far too many students aren’t consuming enough dairy, but I know their dairy intake has increased based on the production records for the parfaits and smoothies in our high schools.”

“The success of this program shows that when you offer students food options that are not only nutritious but delicious as well, they will make better food choices,” noted Coley Drinkwater, a Dinwiddie County dairy farmer and member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Dairy Advisory Committee. “Dairy products, including yogurt, are the perfect fit since they pack 9 vitamins and minerals along with protein and probiotics into a delicious drinkable treat.”

The ADA Virginia grant program is funded by dairy farmers and “has been very helpful in encouraging schools to offer new dairy products to students,” said Tony Banks, a VFBF commodity marketing specialist. “The idea is to promote good nutrition with a variety of dairy product options that schools may not have the capacity or resources to offer on their own. The program helps the schools take that first step.”

This is all good news for Virginia dairy farmers, who produced 205 million gallons of milk in 2016, according to the ADA of Virginia. The state is ranked 24th for milk production in the U.S. and 23rd for the number of dairy cows. Virginia is home to approximately 90,000 dairy cows on 608 farms.

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