Foley school staff and Benton County ADA members – (front, from left) superintendent Paul Neubauer, cook manager Lori Landowski, dairy ambassador Heidi Montag, dairy princess Emily Schreindl and high school principal Shayne Kusler; (back, from left) school board member Becky Howard, school board member Stephanie Rudnitski, Benton County ADA member Pat Boyle, Benton County ADA member Lawrence Thell, school board member Ken Anderson, school board member Sharon Kipka and Foley child nutrition director Cheryl Pick – stand near the dairy cooler that the county dairy association donated Sept. 1 in the school cafeteria in Foley, Minnesota.
PHOTO BY JAKOB KOUNKEL
Foley school staff and Benton County ADA members – (front, from left) superintendent Paul Neubauer, cook manager Lori Landowski, dairy ambassador Heidi Montag, dairy princess Emily Schreindl and high school principal Shayne Kusler; (back, from left) school board member Becky Howard, school board member Stephanie Rudnitski, Benton County ADA member Pat Boyle, Benton County ADA member Lawrence Thell, school board member Ken Anderson, school board member Sharon Kipka and Foley child nutrition director Cheryl Pick – stand near the dairy cooler that the county dairy association donated Sept. 1 in the school cafeteria in Foley, Minnesota. PHOTO BY JAKOB KOUNKEL

    FOLEY, Minn. – With the new school year underway, students at Foley High School were welcomed back with a new feature to their lunch program.
    High school students have the option to incorporate more dairy into their diets because of a donation from the Benton County American Dairy Association’s dairy farmers.



    “We’re excited about the fact that we’re going to reach so many kids and families, and let them know about dairy,” said Pat Boyle, treasurer for Benton County ADA. “We’re going to get them to drink more milk, and hopefully, they’ll develop lifelong habits that are passed on for generations. This could be a win-win for everybody.”
    In working with the school’s child nutrition director, the group of dairy farmer representatives provided an outlet for the school to have more dairy products available for students.
    “We are a big farm-to-school district, and milk is considered a part of that with it going from the farm to these milk cartons in 48 hours,” Cheryl Pick said. “When (Boyle) reached out asking if we could use a cooler, that gave us the chance to offer kids cheese sticks, yogurt, even salads with cheese on them.”
    Pick is the child nutrition director at Foley Public Schools. She has been with the department for 21 years.
    The cooler is located in the cafeteria and displayed in a way that students can pick and choose which foods they want to incorporate into their meals.
Food options will include tried-and-true dairy products, such as milk cartons, cheese sticks and yogurt cups, as well as fruit parfaits, and sandwiches and salad with cheese included.
    “We’re offering grab-and-go meals that kids can use,” Pick said. “We feel our program is very nutritious because of the farm-to-school program. This will add to that by giving healthier options and meatless food options. We’re seeing more kids want that.”
    Pick has worked with the ADA previously, providing dairy foods to students in an after-school format as well as accepting a donation for the school’s graduation party.
    For this donation, Boyle came up with the idea after speaking with her grandkids who are students in the Foley School District.  
    “They told me they always want more milk than the one carton they get with lunch; the same as the elementary kids,” Boyle said. “In the past, we’ve donated money for the school to purchase milk, but that has always been a short-term fix. What could we do to help out more?”
    Boyle looked to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture which was running a grant campaign for organizations to purchase coolers for area schools.  
    “Maybe, we could help these kids at school if we gave them a cooler,” Boyle said. “There’d be more room for the school to store milk.”
    Boyle approached Pick about the proposed donation, which was readily accepted as a way to improve the school’s nutrition program. The two worked with an established vendor to purchase a cooler to accommodate the school’s needs.
    “When I talked to (Boyle) about getting these grant dollars, she asked what I wanted,” Pick said. “I wanted it to be easy for the kids to use. I wanted it to be displayed in a good way.”
    Boyle agreed.
    “Our conversation led to this idea of putting dairy products in the cooler. Students could purchase them to go along with their lunches,” she said. “We went ahead and applied for the grant, and were able to get a cooler like (Pick) wanted for the amount of money we had to spend.”
    With more than two decades of experience in the school’s nutrition program, Pick understands the importance of her team’s input and community involvement in developing programming to provide the best for students.
    The school district is known for its collaborative work with the community.
    “Part of our goals with the district is to make it better for the kids,” Pick said. “If I have to do it myself without collaborating with the ADA or MDA and my staff, I feel my program wouldn’t be what it is today.”
    As high school students begin their new school year, the latest community-led effort should allow students to embrace more dairy options in the lunch line.  
    “The kids are always excited for something new, and they’ll give us feedback with what we need,” Pick said. “Students are starting a new school year with new class schedules, and now they’ll come to lunch and that will be different too. I think what we offer them will be very well received.”
    Boyle and her fellow board members are also hopeful this is a way to bring awareness to the health benefits of choosing dairy foods as part of a balanced diet.
    “If this takes off, we can really get young people hooked on dairy and have them for life,” Boyle said. “Our dairy farmers do a tremendous job supplying us with good food. If we can reach more people, create more demand, hopefully that will help.”