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March 25, 2019

Why The Dairy Checkoff Focuses On School Nutrition

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

For decades, the dairy checkoff has used laser focus to ensure dairy was included in school nutrition. According to Lucas Lentsch, CEO of the Midwest Dairy Association, it’s an important pathway for building consumer demand. 

“It's interesting, about 7% of our country's dairy production is actually consumed within our school food service channel, whether it be in the form of fluid milk or cheese or yogurt or other dairy ingredients,” he told AgriTalk host Chip Flory. 

For more than 100 years the dairy checkoff has been encouraging kids to consume dairy products, but inevitably dairy and the dietary guidelines is a conversation that comes up every few years. Which Lentsch said is one of the reasons the checkoff works so hard to help consumers understand how dairy is part of a healthy diet. 

“In a day and age when there’s activism at every level, whether that's in science or Google science, the opinions of many get brought into the conversation and we can't assume that three servings of dairy a day are going to continue to be on the recommended list,” he said adding that even from a nutrition educator standpoint, awareness is critical. 

He used the example of Dr. Jim Painter who was a nutrition industry expert who convinced others dairy shouldn’t be included in child diets. Today, he’s saying he got it wrong and regrets spending years trying to talk animal fats out of the diet, Lentsch explained. 

“It is center of the bullseye for him in his later years of his profession to come back and retell the story, because we know that milk fat is something that is good for cardiovascular health,” he said adding that too many times diet fads have stacked up against the dairy farmer. “We’ve got to call that stuff out for what it is.”