CHICAGO — Leaders involved in providing children with
nutritious food and increasing physical activity gathered at a town hall meeting
to discuss ways to form coalitions to make improvements that benefit
“Our focus is on how we can continue to put students at the
center of the conversation and how we can bring thought leaders from very
diverse groups, including education, government, nutrition, private sector and
public sector, to work as a coalition,” said Alexis Glick, CEO of the GENYOUth
The foundation is a public-private partnership with the
National Dairy Council and the National Football League. It was formed three
years ago with a six-way memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Departments
of Agriculture, Education and Health and Human Services.
“The foundation was formed with the sole intent to focus on
how we could empower our program Fuel Up to Play 60 and how we could provide
more resources to kids,” the CEO explained.
“This is the first in our town hall series,” said Glick at
the GENYOUth Learning Connection Chicago Town Hall meeting, which was sponsored
by the GENYOUth Foundation, the Midwest Dairy Council and the Quaker Oats Co.
“Every day, we’re in 73,000 schools, reaching 38 million
kids with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, and the lessons our kids are learning
each day are invaluable,” she said. “But if they don’t have adult stakeholders
to support them inside and outside of the school building, our work won’t
service back into the communities.”
In a couple of years, the National Dairy Council will be
celebrating its 100 th anniversary.
“That captures how committed dairy farmers have been to
being a part of the solution for child health and wellness,” said Mike Kruger,
CEO of the Midwest Dairy Council. “We are really proud of that
This commitment is important, he noted, because kids are 100
percent of the future dairy consumers.
“They’re our future families, workforce and community
leaders,” he said. “If we don’t have vitality in our children, it impacts our
The Quaker Oats Co. was founded 136 years ago in Chicago.
Quaker Oats got involved with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program two years ago
because of the importance of education, nutritious foods and physical activity,
explained Jose Luis Prado, president of the company.
“This is about doing good business by doing good for the
community by investing in the health of the people,” he said.
“Change doesn’t happen at the national level — change
happens at the local level,” Glick stressed. “That’s why we’re here today. We
want everyone to walk out with actionable items.”
During a panel discussion, Stephanie Whyte said she has been
the chief health officer for the Chicago Public Schools for the past 18 months.
“I am the first ever in this capacity,” she noted. “My role
is a collaboration between public health and public education.”
Whyte noted that her focus is to remove health-related
barriers to learning.
“You can’t educate a child that’s not healthy, and you can’t
keep a child healthy that’s not educated,” she said.
“For 30 years, until last year, students did not have
recess,” she added. “Last year, we were able to reinstate recess and increase
physical activity for our students. However, our students still lack daily
Linnea Kooistra, a dairy farmer from Woodstock, stressed the
importance of child health and wellness.
“Part of what gets us up in the morning is our passion for
the product we produce and the wellness it brings to kids,” she said.
“Midwest dairy farmers are providing $500,000 to Chicago
Public Schools, and most of that goes to access to breakfast,” she noted. “We
understand the need for breakfast that provides the nutrition that helps kids so
they can learn. We know better nutrition leads to better performance in
“About 860,000 people in Cook County every day wake up
uncertain where and how they will get the food they need to eat,” reported Kate
Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
“In the Chicago Public Schools, 80 percent of the children
qualify for free and reduced price lunch, which means they are from families
that don’t have enough income to always provide healthy food that children need
to be able to grow up to reach their full potential,” she said.
This is why it is critical that investments are made in
programs and opportunities that connect children to healthy food, Maehr
“There’s really clear data that children who do not have
access to healthy, nutritious food will not do as well in school and they will
not realize their full potential,” she reported. “And the implications are far
greater than our school system, the implications are community wide.”
Anthony Morgan, former wide receiver for the Chicago Bears,
has served as a spokesman for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program for the past three
“We need to empower the next generation to believe in
themselves that they can be healthy and active,” he said. “I got involved with
this program because I want to make a difference in the next generation of
It is important for adults to be role models, said Bonnie
Johnson, a registered dietician with the Quaker Oats Co.
“It’s not nutrition until they eat it — food in the trash
doesn’t do anybody any good,” she said. “A quality breakfast is something kids