A couple of months ago, I had an amazing opportunity. On a beautiful February morning I got up early and headed to Ford Field. For those of you unfamiliar with what Ford Field is, it is where the Detroit Lions play. What was unique about this event is: It was a dairy event. I was attending the Fuel Up To Play 60 Rally for School Health.

Messing-Kennedy is a dairy producer located in Michigan.

The rally is a program that elementary and junior high schools can apply for. The committee picks the top schools and brings six students and several school employees to Ford Field. The day includes speakers and learning from Detroit Lions players and coaching staff.

I do a lot of dairy promotion work, and I like to think I see some amazing things happening all the time. At industry meetings we talk about the Fuel Up to Play 60 program a lot. But until I saw it with my own eyes, I had no idea just how amazing this program really is.

The NFL and the state dairy association team up to plan state Fuel Up to Play 60 events. Fuel Up to Play 60 is so much more than just teaching kids to drink milk. Milk and dairy farming is talked about a lot, don’t get me wrong.

They also talk about eating healthy, balanced diets full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and not a lot of sugar. They teach kids about moving and exercising 60 minutes a day. They explain how healthy eating and exercising makes for a healthy mind and can affect everything they do.


At the Rally for School Health, speakers teach them about doing better in school. It’s amazing how teaching kids about keeping their focus in school can easily be their favorite part of the day.

Hearing a professional football player stand in front of them and tell them what they put in their body matters and being smart is important is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The rally is just the beginning of this program. The goal is to give these young people the skills and tools to teach their peers about healthy living.

Too often, I hear farmers say they don’t know where their checkoff dollars go. I realize not everyone gets to see things like the Rally for School Health in person. But please know your dollars are going to develop young leaders who believe in dairy farmers and what we do.

The Rally for Student Health is just one example of a state program. The national Fuel Up to Play 60 program has a student ambassador program that is a whole new level of developing leaders in 11- to 18-year-olds.

Attending the Fuel Up to Play 60 Rally for School Health showed me that they’re giving kids the skills to become leaders in their own school.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 program is so much more than just teaching about dairy farming and dairy products, and that is what makes it so powerful. We, the dairy industry, are giving kids the knowledge and power to be healthy and active all of their lives.  end mark

Ashley Messing-Kennedy