Midwest Dairy Association

Healthy Students Are Better Students: New Report Illustrates The Wellness Impact of Nutrition and Physical Activity on Improving Academic Achievement « Back

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March 05, 2013 10:09 AM

Through Support of School Breakfast Programs and Fuel Up to Play 60, Midwest Dairy Council is helping schools set up healthy learning environments for students

ST. PAUL, Minn. – As schools prepare for standardized testing this spring, school leaders, teachers and parents are focused on ensuring students are prepared to do their best. However, research shows that regular access to better nutrition — starting with breakfast — coupled with increased opportunities for physical activity may help students reach their potential throughout the school year, which may lead to better performance at testing time and beyond. Nutrient-rich foods and physical activity are not only good for child health, but also learning. Finding a balance between academic rigor and health and wellness efforts in the school environment has become an increasing priority.

A report issued yesterday, The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Success through Healthy School Environments1, reinforces the “learning connection” — the crucial link between quality nutrition, physical activity and academic performance. The report was released by the GENYOUth Foundation, National Dairy Council (NDC), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American School Health Association (ASHA).

Findings from The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Success through Healthy School Environmentssuggest:

  • More than half (62%) of all teens say they do not eat breakfast every day of the week.2
  • Breakfast eaters have better attention and memory than breakfast skippers.3
  • Three-in-four high school students aren’t active for the recommended 60 minutes each day.2
  • Students who were more active during school performed better on standardized tests for reading, math and spelling.4

However, despite the report’s findings, U.S. schools face tremendous challenges to meet economic, health and academic demands.  Many schools lack the funds to execute school wellness policies or to start breakfast programs.  And as pressures mount to improve standardized test scores, many districts are shortening or eliminating opportunities for physical activity, such as recess and physical education (PE) classes.

To help overcome these challenges, Midwest Dairy Council, an affiliate of NDC, supports schools in their effort to set up healthy learning environments for students.  Specifically, within the last two school years, Midwest Dairy has worked with schools on 42 projects among schools in 10 states to improve school breakfast programs. This represents works in 42 school buildings in 11 different school districts and amounts to an investment of more than $168,000 made by Midwest dairy farmers.

Proven school wellness programs such as Fuel Up to Play 60 — a program founded by NDC and the National Football League (NFL), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — encourages students to take charge in making small, everyday changes toward a healthy lifestyle at school. In partnership with GENYOUth Foundation, Fuel Up to Play 60 has provided schools with more than $10 million in grants to help develop healthy in-school initiatives ranging from breakfast programs to walking clubs. Administrators and teachers have shared success stories indicating improved attention spans and increased attendance as a result of participating in Fuel Up to Play 60.

“The challenges of addressing student health in schools are many, and the obstacles are abundant,” says Dr. John Skretta, school district superintendent for the Norris District in Firth, Neb. “Fuel Up to Play 60 and the additional program resources available from Midwest Dairy Council should bolster the confidence and the can-do spirit of school wellness councils everywhere.”

To read how Fuel Up to Play 60 has made a positive impact in schools in the Midwest, visit:  http://www.midwestdairy.com/0t181p190/fuel-up-to-play-60/.

While schools are the focal point in the movement to improve childhood health and wellness, they cannot act alone. The broader community, including business leaders, food and beverage companies, health professionals, community organizers, parents and students can help tackle the status quo by creating and sustaining opportunities for good nutrition and physical activity in schools.

Everyone from community leaders to parents can work together to champion for improved child health and wellness in schools. To read the full report visit www.GENYOUthFoundation.org and to get involved visit http://www.midwestdairy.com.


Midwest Dairy Council®, an affiliate of National Dairy Council, is the nutrition education division of Midwest Dairy Association. The Council is dedicated to dairy nutrition research and education through the investment of more than 9,500 dairy farm families across 10 Midwestern states, and is committed to child health and wellness through our collaborative program, Fuel Up to Play 60. For more information, visit www.midwestdairy.com. Follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook at Midwest Dairy.

About GENYOUth Foundation
Over the past thirty years, we have seen explosive growth in the number of children identified as overweight or obese. Founded through an unprecedented public-private partnership with the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the National Football League (NFL) committed to child health and wellness, GENYOUth brings leaders in health, education, government and business together in a movement to reverse childhood obesity rates. The Foundation officially launched on February 4, 2011 at Super Bowl XLV with the signing of a historic six-way Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health & Human Services. GENYOUth empowers students to improve nutrition and physical activity by taking small steps to accelerate a lifetime of healthy changes. When youth are given a voice, change can happen. For more information, visit www.GENYOUthFoundation.org.

About National Dairy Council
National Dairy Council® (NDC), the non-profit organization founded by dairy farmers, is committed to nutrition education and research-based communications. NDC provides science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier nation, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. Established in 1915, NDC comprises a staff of registered dietitians and nutrition research and communications experts across the country. NDC has taken a leadership role in promoting child health and wellness through programs such as Fuel Up to Play 60. Developed by NDC and the National Football League (NFL), Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. For more information, visit www.NationalDairyCouncil.org.

About the American College of Sports Medicine
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. ACSM’s signature programs include:  Exercise is Medicine® A global initiative to improve health and well-being through a prescription for regular physical activity from doctors and other health care providers. ACSM American Fitness IndexTM An evidence- and science-based measurement of health and fitness at the community level throughout the U.S. in partnership with the WellPoint Foundation.

About The American School Health Association
The American School Health Association (ASHA) is the leading membership organization for school health professionals. It is concerned with all health factors that are necessary for students to be ready to learn, including optimum nutrition, physical fitness, emotional well-being, and a safe and clean environment. The association focusses its efforts on professional development, outreach and advocacy for educators and health providers (www.ASHAWEB.org).

About Fuel Up to Play 60
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL), with additional partnership support from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Fuel Up to Play 60 is designed to engage and empower youth to take action for their own health by implementing long-term, positive changes for themselves and their schools. Customizable and non-prescriptive program components are grounded in research with youth, including tools and resources, in-school promotional materials, a website and student challenges. Fuel Up to Play 60 is further supported by several health and nutrition organizations: Action for Healthy Kids, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association and School Nutrition Association. Visit www.FuelUpToPlay60.com to learn more.

1 American College of Sports Medicine, American School Health Association, GENYOUth Foundation, National Dairy Council, The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Through Healthy School Environment, March 2013.
2 Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. 2012. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States 2011, Surveillance Summary No. 61(SS04);1-162. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6104a1.htm. Accessed on January 31, 2013.
3 Wesnes KA, Pincock C, Richardson D, et al. Breakfast reduces declines in attention and memory over the morning in school children. Appetite. 2003;41:329-331.
4 Donnelly JE, Greene JL, Gibson CA, et al. Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC): A randomized controlled trial to promote physical activity and diminish overweight and obesity in elementary school children. Preventive Medicine. 2009;49(4):336–341.


Stephanie Cundith, MS, RD, LD

Nutrition Spokesperson and Communications Manager

Stephanie Cundith is a registered dietitian and Nutrition Spokesperson and Communications Manager for the Midwest Dairy Council, where she provides scientific, accurate and practical information on the benefits of dairy nutrition. She conducts television, print and radio interviews across Midwest Dairy’s ten-state region and serves as a national media spokesperson for the National Dairy Council.


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Additional Resources

  The Wellness Impact Report

New developments in learning connection science highlight the importance of increased physical activity and improved nutrition and their positive impact on students’ academic performance. Both the School Breakfast Program and Fuel Up to Play 60 serve to bring this connection to life in schools.

Wellness Impact Report Illustration

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