Northern Illinois University’s “Huskie Hack” gets Gen Z talking about dairy sustainability

In early November, Midwest Dairy sponsored a “hackathon” hosted by Northern Illinois University’s Office of Innovation. A hackathon is an “invention marathon” for individuals interested in technology where participants spend hours building and sharing their creations. It is a fun and interactive way to learn new things, create resume-enhancing projects, and develop professional networks. The 24-hour intercollegiate Huskie Hack brought students together from colleges throughout the Midwest to form 13 teams charged with innovating, solving, creating, and presenting a variety of solutions to food systems sustainability challenges. The three challenge topics included food waste, diversity in agriculture, and regionalization of food systems.

As part of the sponsorship for the event, Midwest Dairy interacted with the 75 students in several ways, including event activities, Undeniably Dairy event programs, dairy promoting advertisements, many giveaways, and an on-campus news article. Our partner Melani Duffrin, Ph.D., RD, presented dairy nutrition information and hosted dairy trivia for students; students also had fun taking photos in front of an Undeniably Dairy backdrop with dairy food props. Participants watched a video featuring dairy farmer Angie Hildebrandt, where she highlighted dairy sustainability initiatives on her family farm. Following the video, Midwest Dairy Ambassador, Madelyn Hartrim-Lowe, shared her passion for dairy and discussed her experience interning at Lenkaitis Holsteins last summer. Madelyn did an excellent job answering questions from students regarding animal care and how technological advances on the farm support dairy sustainability.

This was the first annual food system sustainability-focused hackathon, and Midwest Dairy sees value in continuing the partnership with Northern Illinois University in 2023.