Molly McKendry

New England Dairy Farmers’ Innovation Challenge

The following is a press release by New England Dairy & Food Council. The photos below were selected for use in this blog post.

Students Pitch Creative Ideas for Serving Dairy in Schools at New England Dairy Farmers’ Innovation Challenge

Fuel Up to Play 60 students and educators spent the day learning about dairy farming and nutrition from experts before working in teams to come up with innovative solutions for dairy in schools.

Foxborough, MA (August 20th, 2019)— Fuel Up to Play 60 students and educators from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire participated in the first ever New England Dairy Farmers’ Innovation Challenge on August 7th. The event, held at Gillette Stadium’s Putnam Club by New England Dairy & Food Council with the help of CustomEd, provided middle and high schools with the opportunity to connect with local dairy farmers, learn about farming and dairy nutrition, and come up with creative ways to serve and educate about dairy in schools.

Welcome New England schools!
Student teams spent the day at the Putnam Club at Gillette Stadium

During the first half of the day, school groups rotated through dairy education activities that farmers helped to facilitate. In one station students heard from dairy farmer Kies Orr about the ins and outs of running her dairy, Fort Hills Farm, in Connecticut. Orr brought along items from the farm for a show and tell, including various types of cow feed, milking equipment, and photos of the cows. Diana Whittier of Whittier Farms in Massachusetts was on hand in another station to help answer questions while students worked on evaluating how dairy is currently served with their school meals, and why it matters to them. In the third station, dairy farmers John and Robin Luther of Parnassus Farm in New Hampshire helped facilitate dairy trivia, which tested student’s knowledge about dairy nutrition and farming. The strong presence of dairy farmers at the event made a positive impression on participants.

Diana Whittier, Whittier Farms in Sutton, MA
Kies Orr, Fort Hill Farms in Thompson CT
John Luther, Parnassus Farm in Acworth, New Hampshire

“Meeting with the farmers made me appreciate the milk and dairy that we consume daily. I will definitely be more aware of purchasing local dairy.” Said one participant.

During lunch students got to test out a “Milk Bar” that was created specifically for this event. Participants could customize a glass of milk with a variety of toppings and flavors, including cinnamon, fresh fruit, café-style flavorings, and more. Curious students were going through the buffet-style line all through lunch.

Students experimented with milk flavors and fun toppings
Combinations were endless at the milk bar!

In the afternoon students worked in school teams to create story boards and 90-second pitches that highlighted milk and other dairy products with school meals. Some teams came up with ideas for starting or strengthening farm-to-school programs, while others proposed creative new ways to serve dairy at breakfast and lunch. A milk machine that would allow students to create new flavors, and a self-serve yogurt parfait or smoothie bar at breakfast and lunch were just two ideas students came up with. A major theme throughout the afternoon was having the ability to choose and customize the dairy component of their meal.

Although it may be some time before student’s ideas are made a reality, the activity got all Challenge participants thinking about ways to innovate the dairy offerings at their school and helped them understand the importance of consuming three servings of dairy every day.

One educator said, “I’m looking forward to bringing this information back to my school district.”

Students worked with their schools to come up with creative ideas for serving dairy in schools
Each team created a story board to share their ideas
Students then presented their ideas in 90 seconds to the audience
Everyone was a winner!

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Molly McKendry

Molly is a registered dietitian and Manager of Nutrition Communications for New England Dairy & Food Council. She is responsible for providing communications and public relations support for our Fuel Up to Play 60 program and Health & Wellness teams in New England. In her free time, Molly likes to run, read, and travel. Sound like someone you want to get to know? Contact Molly at