By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
TWIN FALLS –Seattle Seahawks tight end Nick Vannett and 230 students from the Twin Falls area joined forces May 9 to highlight the important role that dairy products play in a nutritious diet.
The event was a way to reward Magic Valley schools that are highly engaged in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, a joint initiative involving the National Dairy Council, NFL, state dairy councils and the USDA.
The program encourages students to consume protein-rich foods, such as dairy products, as well as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, and to perform some type of physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day.
Vannett, a 6-foot-6, 261-pound tight end for the Seahawks, was the star of the event but dairy was the hero.
“Stand up for the dairy farmers of Idaho,” official Seahawks emcee Ken Carson said, eliciting a loud cheer from the students, who ranged in grade from elementary to high school.
After Vannett took the stage to deafening cheers, he told the students that he believes dairy played an instrumental role in helping him achieve his dream of playing in the National Football League.
He said he drank about a gallon of milk every two days as a youngster.
“I think that helped me to become the big, strong, healthy man I am today,” he said. “I attribute that to drinking milk and eating good, healthy food.”
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat healthy and play for 60 minutes,” Vannett said. “I have to be in the best shape to compete at the highest level and it all starts with what I put in my body.”
After the event, which was sponsored by Dairy West, a United Dairymen of Idaho partner, Vannett said he really did go through a gallon of milk every two days as a kid.
“I wasn’t kidding when I said that,” he said. “Every meal I always had a big, 64-ounce glass of milk. I just enjoyed drinking it.”
Five Idaho dairy farming families attended the event and Vannett said he was glad he got a chance to meet and speak with them afterward.
“It all starts with them,” he said. “If they don’t do what they do, then how are we going to eat right? I definitely have a great amount of appreciation for those guys.”
In its most recent round of Fuel Up to Play 60 funding, the Idaho Dairy Council awarded grants totaling $80,678 to 24 Idaho schools to help them jumpstart and sustain programs that promote the importance of eating healthy and being active.
Dairy West Communications Director Cindy Miller pointed out that Fuel Up to Play 60 is one of many programs supported by Idaho dairy families to promote youth health and wellness.
“It’s important for kids to have a fundamental understanding of nutrition and wellness and Idaho dairy farmers feel this is important enough to spend their dairy checkoff dollars to support,” she said.
John Wright, a dairyman from Wendell, told Idaho Farm Bureau that “the youth are not only our future but they’re our present, too. We’re just trying to instill some good nutrition practices in our youth. There’s no question we’re looking to sell milk, but they benefit from it, too, because milk is a perfect food and it’s important in our diet and they need to know that.”
Having a professional sports figure such as Vannett speak to kids about the role dairy plays in a balanced, nutritious diet helps drive that message home, he added.
“Having a sports figure explaining it to them tends to stick with them a little longer,” Wright said. “They’re an authority who knows their career depends on being in good, physical shape and being in good, physical shape depends on a good diet. They know what they’re supposed to eat and they know the importance of nutrition.”