Dairy has an obvious place as a key ingredient in meals served across the country every day. But what about meals served at schools? Are there potential growth opportunities for dairy in school meals?

The answer, according to National Dairy Council (NDC), is yes. NDC is working with partners and nutrition leaders to enhance dairy’s presence at schools in a variety of ways.

“The big benefit to dairy farmers is that we’re trying to get more dairy included in recipes and product development in schools,” said Peggy Lee, vice president dairy optimization, business development for NDC. “We can work with large partners who share our vision, and we can leverage their resources to expand recipes and product development.

“We’re also trying to make chefs and schools and product developers more aware of dairy as a healthy ingredient. We’re trying to get people to think outside of the box when it comes to dairy and all that it offers.”

The concept began to take root in 2012 through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, an organization founded by dairy farmers to unite the industry on common goals.


Since then, efforts to increase dairy’s presence in school recipes and product development have engaged 11,000-plus school nutrition professionals and 199 partners. The work has generated more than 100 recipe ideas that have been taste-tested by 21,000 students. Additionally, more than $208,000 has been contributed from partners through cash and in-kind contributions.

Here are some ways NDC has led the effort to increase dairy’s presence in schools:

“Breakfast lab” recipe development

– The goal of the lab is to expand dairy at school breakfast through customized menu offerings that feature milk, cheese or yogurt as key ingredients. The recipes are designed to be cost-effective and have been kid-approved.

Apple pie overnight oats

NDC worked with local dairy councils from Midwest Dairy Association, Dairy MAX and American Dairy Association Mideast that provided funding and other resources to launch the project. School nutrition professionals were engaged at every step of the process to assure the recipes could easily be executed by schools and fell within cost constraints.

The recipes are included in the Fuel Up to Play 60 playbook that is used by more than 70,000 schools across the U.S.

Fuel Up to Play 60 was created by dairy farmers with the National Football League and support from USDA. It is the nation’s largest school-based health and wellness program.

The recipes support two healthy eating “plays:” Grab and Go – Anytime! and Healthy Breakfast, Healthy Lunch – BAR NONE. With support from school nutrition professionals, 10 recipes were developed and tested in 27 schools over eight weeks.

Six winning recipes were chosen by students: three that feature yogurt and three that have a cheese component.

Local dairy checkoff staffs across the U.S. have demonstrated these recipes to thousands of school nutrition professionals at state conferences. Checkoff staffs also have hosted training sessions to teach school nutrition directors about the program and the recipes have been mailed to schools across the country. There also are “at home” recipe cards students can take to their parents.

School Breakfast Summit (October 2014)

– NDC brought together 52 of the leading authorities from across the country who represent high-volume food service venues. Among the group were school food service chefs, culinary nutrition experts, recipe developers, cookbook authors, registered dietitians, school food service directors and others.

Blueberry delight

The group created 17 concepts to accelerate the innovation of packaged, ready-to-serve and quick-assembly breakfast items. The group agreed on four product categories concepts:

  • Hand-held Mexican/Latin
  • Muffins
  • Pizza/flatbreads
  • Breakfast bowls

Some results of the summit have been put into place, including:

  • Hooray Puree developed smoothie recipes with yogurt

  • The Mushroom Council promoted the addition of cheese (and bacon) to its Blended Burger and recipes

  • Dannon worked with Kellogg’s to develop a product that is co-branded using Dannon’s yogurt and Kellogg’s granola. It is pre-packaged for convenience.

The group continues to explore grant opportunities for further implementation of these concepts while leveraging Fuel Up to Play 60 to expand breakfast participation.

School breakfast product development ideation sessions (2014)

– NDC hosted a series of meetings with leading companies including Rich’s, Schwan Food Company, Sodexo and J.T.M. Food Group to further advance the need for recipe and product innovation featuring dairy in schools.

Waffle dunkers

These discussions built off learnings from the school breakfast summit and kept the momentum going. J.T.M., for example, now offers 22 dairy-focused products and more than 17 school recipes. Rich’s also is exploring hand-held breakfast items in the classroom that contain an ounce of dairy.

School Meal Recipe Development Summit (July 2016)

– NDC brought together leaders from Sodexo, Dannon and McCormick for a collaborative forum with a goal of creating 20 to 25 recipes that highlight dairy and are kid-approved.

Yogurt pops

The recipes feature Dannon fat–free Greek yogurt and McCormick spices. They meet school nutrition requirements and practical needs of school nutrition operations nationwide.

Forty-three recipes were developed and 10 were selected for Sodexo to incorporate into menu plans.

For more information on how NDC is working with schools to enhance nutrition, visit National Dairy Council.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Apple pie overnight oats

PHOTO 2: Blueberry delight

PHOTO 3: Waffle dunkers

PHOTO 4: Yogurt pops

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.