The National Football League (NFL) and National Dairy Council (NDC), the nutrition research and education arm of the dairy producer checkoff, today launch Fuel Up to Play 60, a new initiative aimed at tackling childhood obesity by giving youth a voice in changing the school nutrition and physical activity environment. The program will reach 36 million youth in 60,000 elementary, middle and high schools during the 2009/2010 school year.

The youth-led program empowers children and teens to take charge of their health and work with school leaders to create more opportunities for 60 minutes of daily physical activity and to make more healthy foods available, such as low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Since more than 50 percent of a student’s daily calories are consumed at school, the school environment is an ideal setting for teaching these healthy behaviors so they become lifelong habits.

“NFL is a proud partner of Fuel Up to Play 60. It is an important component of our overall NFL Play 60 campaign," says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Our goal is to raise awareness about the importance of staying fit and eating right, especially for America's young people. This partnership is a powerful alliance to address childhood obesity and emphasize the role of daily physical activity in a healthy lifestyle."

"National Dairy Council is honored to work together with the NFL on Fuel Up to Play 60," says Thomas Gallagher, chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy checkoff program. "Child nutrition, particularly in schools, has been a cornerstone of National Dairy Council for nearly a century. This program centers on youth taking the lead in changing the school environment by increasing opportunities for eating healthier and getting more physical activity."

How Fuel Up to Play 60 works
Schools and youth enroll for the program at FuelUpToPlay60  Youth log on to the Web site and pledge to eat healthier and be more physically active; track their daily healthy behaviors; and earn points to win great prizes. Enrolled schools receive a Fuel Up to Play 60 School Wellness Kit with in-school promotional materials and recommended healthy eating and physical activity strategies that youth teams can implement at their schools. Student leadership ensures that new food and play opportunities will work in their unique school environments and keep youth at the top of their game.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 nationwide competition rounds out the program and is built on student-led participation, both individual and in school. The competition culminates in April 2010 with the awarding of one national school and one individual youth winner.

The program is a pro-active response to the growing obesity epidemic and declining physical fitness of America’s youth. The program is designed to help reverse the trend toward increased weight and sedentary lifestyles among America’s children.

Nearly 32 percent of all children and adolescents, approximately 23 million kids, are now overweight or obese. Over the past 30 years, this trend has assumed epidemic proportions, with the proportion of overweight children aged 6 to 11 years growing from 6.5 percent to 17 percent, and rates among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years jumping from 5 percent to 17.6 percent. These climbing obesity rates increase children’s risk for diet-related chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.

Research shows that most American children are overfed and undernourished. While most consume more calories than recommended by the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, only 2 percent of school-aged children consume the recommended daily number of servings from all major food groups. And 62 percent of children aged 9 to 13 years do not participate in any organized physical activity during their non-school hours. Almost 23 percent do not engage in any free-time physical activity at all.

This program builds upon existing NFL and NDC programs, including NFL PLAY 60: The NFL Movement for an Active Generation, which encourages kids and their families to “get up and play an hour a day.” Fuel Up to Play 60 is based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends consumption of nutrient-rich foods (such as low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

In September, USDA discussed a plan to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between USDA, the NFL and DMI to allow USDA programs and Fuel Up to Play 60 to collaborate and collectively tackle the critical issue of children's health.

More information is available at Fuel Up to Play 60

Source: National Dairy Council