At 5 feet, 7 inches, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the smaller players in the National Football League. In order to compete with the bigger ones, Jones-Drew says he has to eat a healthy diet, which includes low-fat milk among other things.

“I eat a lot of cheese,” he told New York City middle-schoolers Friday morning.

Jones-Drew and three other NFL players were on hand, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management, Inc., to kick off the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.

Fuel Up to Play 60 will promote a healthy lifestyle and diet to school children so that they will grow up to be the best they can be at whatever they do.

The campaign is funded with an initial private sector financial commitment of $250 million over five years by America’s dairy farmers through the Naitonal Dairy Council. Funding is expected to grow as government, business, communities and families join this effort to improve nutrient-rich food choices and achieve 60 minutes of physical activity each day among children.

More than 58,000, or 60 percent, of the nation’s 96,000 private and public schools are currently enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60.

“Today is a significant milestone in the fight against childhood obesity because this unprecedented partnership will help educate our youth about steps they can and should take to lead healthy lives,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Increasing access to more nutrient-rich foods and physical activity in America’s schools is no simple task, and will require the combined effort of private and public interests. Partnerships like these, combined with a strong reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs, can make a significant difference in our battle against childhood obesity.”

Based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the program empowers students in grades 4 through 10 to engage their peers to “fuel up” with nutrient-rich foods they often lack — particularly low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains — and “get up and play” with 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

The program taps the power of the NFL and its teams, players and physical activity programming to add recognition and value for students. National Dairy Council’s trusted school relationships are crucial in sustaining the program. All 32 NFL teams are participating in the program through local dairy councils and schools in their respective markets.

“The National Football League is strongly committed to helping the next generation of youth achieve healthier lifestyles. In 2007, we launched NFL PLAY 60 to encourage kids to get active and play 60 minutes a day. We are excited that Fuel Up to Play 60 extends that message to include healthy eating,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Through Fuel Up to Play 60, we want young people to discover that healthy habits can be both fun and empowering.”

"For nearly 100 years, child nutrition research and education has been a major commitment for dairy farm families and a cornerstone of National Dairy Council,” Gallagher said. “Fuel Up to Play 60 realizes our commitment to child health and sustaining the future. It will continue to expand in the coming years through bold leadership and new partnerships with organizations and industry leaders that no single organization could achieve alone.”

More information about Fuel Up to Play 60 is available at FuelUpToPlay60.com.

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