Tackling Childhood Obesity: The NFL, National Dairy Council, and USDA Team Up to Champion Healthy and Active Living

By: Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD   Date 2/2/10

In the minds of many, football (as in the NFL) really has become "America's Game." With the Super Bowl close at hand, we will watch with great anticipation as the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts take the field, knowing that only one team will take home the title of champion.  But off the field, players from the Saints and the Colts, and many others, are uniting to champion healthy living and tackle one of America's biggest public health issues - obesity among this nation's children. 

Together, the NFL along with the National Dairy Council (NDC) and other health organizations, launched the partnership program, "Fuel Up to Play 60" (FUTP60) last October.  Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with the NDC, held their first ever blogger conference call with Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack announcing that the USDA was joining this roster.  The International Food Information Council Foundation was invited to join this call and had the opportunity to hear more about FUTP60 and ask questions.  The program's mission is to empower our nation's youth in a fun way to make positive lifestyle changes by eating healthy and being active.  Here are a few details on the program:

- Commit to be fit- All students (ages 6-17) can join the competition by signing a pledge to commit to start eating better and begin more active.  Kids track their progress online and earn daily points if they are eating the recommended servings of healthy foods (based on MyPyramid) for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat/fat-free dairy and by being active for at least 60 minutes each day.   More points can be earned by completing pop quizzes that ask nutrition and physical activity questions, accepting challenges, and engaging in interactive features on the Web site.

- Rally together for school spirit - Schools also compete based on their students' achievements.  Since October, over 60,000 schools have signed up.  Program advisors at each school receive a free School Wellness Activation Kit with a "playbook" of healthy eating and physical activity strategies including how to incorporate healthy, appealing, and nutritious foods into the school lunch menu. 

- Keep your eyes on the prize - In addition to feeling great, students have the chance to win the grand prize of an opportunity to hang out with a NFL player or a chance to star in a nationwide promotional ad.  The winning school will receive a healthy makeover of their cafeteria and gym.

- Turn up the star power - The NFL brings an exciting element of star power to the FUTP60 Program and the prizes mentioned above are sure to get the attention of kids and their families.  FUTP60 builds upon existing NDC and NFL programs including 3-A-Day of Dairy and NFL Play 60: the NFL Movement for an Active Generation.  Already receiving lots of national attention this football season, the NFL Play 60 Challenge encourages kids to play for at least 60 minutes a day.  Their interactive Web site features tips of the day, videos from health and fitness coaches, and a place for kids to submit pictures and videos of themselves being active like practicing their own end-zone dances or playing football.

Stay tuned fellow fans...                                                                                                                                     
FUTP60 looks like it has all the elements to be a great program and successfully motivate kids to be more involved in their health.  During the call, we asked about whether consumer research was conducted prior to beginning the program and if there were plans for program evaluation.  The speakers responded by saying they pilot-tested the program with over 500 schools, and they have implemented an extensive evaluation component to the program.  We'll have to stay tuned to watch what happens and see whether other professional sports like the NBA, MLB, or NHL will be encouraged to take up the cause and join in this effort. The transcript for the blogger conference call can be viewed here.

Is your child's school involved in this program?  If not, consider talking to your school and your kids about signing up- it's never too late to join in on the fun!  The second half of the program started February 1st  What NFL player would you like to see at your child's school?

For more great tips on helping your kids eat right and be more active as a family, download IFIC's Kidnetic.com Real-Life Guide for Parents.