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New school year offers opportunity to bring dairy to more students

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It’s back to school time for Generation Z! Commonly referred to as Gen Zers, this group, which includes anyone born between 1996 and 2010, makes up 20 percent of the U.S. population and embodies a unique set of preferences when it comes to what and how they like to eat. Gen Zers want fresh foods that offer a variety of flavors. They also want quick, convenient options to meet their on-the-go lifestyles. What’s more, unlike generations before them, they are demonstrating greater food-purchasing power within their families. This means what they want is often what they get at home. And now, through efforts led by Midwest Dairy, this also means they can get what they want at school, too.

To attract the attention and appetite of this influential group of students, Midwest Dairy is working closely with school districts across its 10-state region to introduce more innovative, kid-friendly menus and meal-delivery options that meet students’ taste and nutrition needs, while offering greater access to school breakfast and lunch. And these new creative approaches are also providing nutritious options for students who are food insecure and students who have the option to eat off campus.

Here are some innovative examples:

Image courtesy of Midwest Dairy

Food Trucks Deliver Dairy-packed Meals to Students

In South Dakota, Rapid City School District, with financial support from Midwest Dairy and additional partners, launched a food truck program at the start of the summer as part of the federally reimbursed Summer Feeding Program. Not only are food trucks a trendy, appealing way to receive food, each meal served from the Rapid City School District truck includes milk. Cheese and yogurt options are also on the food truck menu. During the summer, the food truck literally hit the road and served students in isolated areas who previously had limited access to school meals outside of the school year. In its first month, the truck served more than 75 meals per day. To continue the success of the program, the food truck is also being used on-site for the 2018-19 school year. Now, in addition to reaching food insecure students, the truck targets high school students who typically go off-campus for meals that include nutritious dairy foods.

Image courtesy of Midwest Dairy

Coffee Bars Stocked with Milk-based Drinks Now Open in Schools

Recognizing how much teens love coffee drinks, a growing number of schools in the Midwest are also introducing coffee programs. Midwest Dairy has supported school districts in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Oklahoma to offer high school students, and in certain districts, junior high school students, a variety of coffee or coffee-flavored drinks — such as milk-based lattes and cappuccinos — for breakfast and lunch at on-site coffee bars or snack stores. Not only does this offer students an alternative beverage option, each coffee item provides a serving of low-fat milk. In most cases, the coffee bars or snack stores also offer a school meal — breakfast and/or lunch — which is eligible for reimbursement through the School Meal Program. Schools report an increase in school meal participation upon introduction of the coffee bar programs. In North Dakota, on average, 1,500 milk-based coffee drinks were sold per month at Williston High School during the 2017-18 school year. This equates to a yearly average of 13,500 milk-based coffee drinks and an average increase of 6,349 pounds of milk (738 gallons).

Dairy as an Ingredient Adds Nutrition and Appeal to School Menus

Keeping with the theme of coffee beverages, Midwest Dairy also recognizes how versatile dairy ingredients are and how easily they can boost the nutrition in menu items kids love. A recent partnership between Midwest Dairy, National Dairy Council, Land O’Lakes and General Mills fueled the development of new school foodservice recipes, each of which meets school nutrition requirements and the practical needs of school foodservice operations nationwide. The recipes — which include Kicked-Up Queso Totchos, Chicken Shawarma and Crunchy Fish Tacos — feature a variety of ethnic cuisines to reach a more diverse and adventurous student body. Midwest Dairy will introduce the recipes to school nutrition departments in the Midwest for consideration on future school menus.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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