Milk Means More Is More Than A Slogan When It Comes To Michigan’s Children
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written and published by our partners at MLive.com
The back-to-school season always evokes nostalgia for adults, who think about getting on the bus for the first time each fall, reconnecting with friends and going through the lunch line and grabbing the iconic cardboard milk carton.
Getting the proper nutrients has come a long way since then – though the classic container is still available and every bit a part of a healthy diet – as students today have a wide variety of dairy options as part of school lunches. School menus now include chocolate milk, yogurt-based smoothies and parfaits, various types of cheese and more.
Brianna Henton, a registered dietician and youth wellness manager for the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, explained that dairy has the unique ability to assist students’ bodies and brains grow with a potent mix of 13 essential nutrients. That’s why UDIM, a trade group that supports farmers and is a long-time advocate of child nutrition and wellness initiatives, forms close partnerships with the nearly 900 districts in Michigan.
“Students need to be fueled, attentive and focused to learn and that’s hard to do without having energy or having an empty stomach,” Henton said. “Dairy is a perfect component to meet all those needs. It’s the baseline and foundation of what a healthy diet should look like.”
Henton and others at UDIM work with schools to provide meal items that are nutritious and appealing to students. That’s what led to the introduction of new dairy-based products in the last decade.
“We know schools can offer all the healthy food you want, but the students have to want to eat it. We all like the power of choice and want to make the decisions on what we consume,” she said. “What we’ve learned by working with schools is that some students want to get theirs in a different way than just milk.
“We’re trying to make dairy more appealing and out of that comes ideas like smoothies, which have gained a lot of popularity in the last few years. The more choices we can give students, the more they can benefit from that boost of nutrition. We want to make it enjoyable for the students.”
The milk and dairy items, many of which come from more than nearly 1000 dairy farms in Michigan, in schools are specifically formulated and balanced for developing bodies and minds and have less sugar than what can be bought in grocery stores.
Research from the American Dairy Association shows dairy helps students grow by providing:
- Calcium, which builds and maintains strong bones.
- Protein essential for building and repairing tissue and a strong immune system.
- Vitamin D for healthy bones, teeth and the immune system.
- Phosphorous that supports tissue growth.
- Vitamin A to promote growth and support healthy skin and eyes.
- Riboflavin that supports the body’s use of carbohydrates, fats and protein for fuel.
- Vitamin B12, which helps the blood function and a healthy nervous system.
- Pantothenic Acid that assists the efficiency of carbs, fats and protein.
- Niacin for using energy in metabolism.
- Zinc that helps growth and development.
- Selenium that helps protect healthy cells from damage and regulate metabolism.
- Iodine for proper brain and bone development.
- Potassium that supports heart health and regulates body fluid balance.
UDIM and school food service directors work in tandem to tailor menus and food offerings to individual districts and buildings. The partnership evaluates the needs of the school, the way they deliver meals and equipment that the leaders may need for student use.
“It’s really collaborative because it’s all about creating a culture of health and wellness for students,” Henton said.