GENYOUth finances raise eyebrows

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 1, 2019

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Looking over the past nine years since GENYOUth was licensed in 2010 as a non-profit under the official name “Youth Improved Incorporated,” the annual Gala event is just one small piece of the larger pie. The Gala has been held for three consecutive years: 2016, 2017 and 2018, ostensibly to raise funds for GENYOUth and its flagship program: Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60).

In fact, since GENYOUth has not been widely publicized until last year, many people believe it began in 2016 and that the Gala is its primary source of funding. Not so.

According to, Youth Improved Incorporated (aka GENYOUth) was started in 2010 and the IRS 990 forms available for 2014-16 show its budget goes well beyond the fundraising of the Gala, with DMI as the primary source of unrestricted funds primarily for administration. Many other donations are restricted or earmarked for specific things.

It’s mission, according to the Guidestar profile is one of empowerment to position youth as “change-agents” in their communities. (In fact a recent GENYOUth project underway is a youth sleep study).

Here is the mission as published in the profile: “GENYOUth nurtures healthy, high-achieving school communities by: Activating programs that create healthy, active students and schools, empowering youth as change-agents in their local communities, engaging a network of private and public partners that share our goal to create a healthy, successful future for students, schools and communities nationwide.”

While it’s true that the November 2018 Gala in New York City raised $1.4 million for GENYOUth, according to DMI staff responses to inquiries, the entire GENYOUth budget has far exceeded this at $8.1 million in 2014, $7.8 million in 2015 and $10.4 million in 2016, according to the IRS 990 forms for those years – the only ones available at this time. (Forms have been submitted requesting 990s from 2010 through 2013, and the 2017 990 won’t be released until March 2019 while 2018’s 990 won’t be available until March 2020.)

Of these $7.8 to $10.4 million budgets, roughly half was spent in the form of grants and contributions to schools and half on administration.

Looking at just the most recent 990 available for 2016, nearly half a million dollars was spent on travel, conferences and meetings, $4.5 million total administration, including over $2 million in ‘professional fees,’ nearly $1 million on salaries, $259,961 in office rent or occupancy, another $202,095 in ‘other expenses,’ and less than $90,000 on printing and publications (aka materials).

GENYOUth carried in 2016 total assets and fund balances of $8 million at the end of the year.

Of the $10.4 million in contributions, less than $1 million came from the NFL ($813,112) with the NFL Players Inc. kicking in $25,000 and two teams contributing $5000 each. Quaker Foods (owned by PepsiCo) kicked in $12,500 that year. Nike contributed over $400,000. Domino’s contributed nearly $700,000, Land O’Lakes contributed nearly $600,000, Microsoft (Bill Gates) kicked in $100,000, fairlife $100,000, Dannon $100,000, and Leprino $20,000.  

A whopping $4.2 million came from checkoff organizations, making mandatory dairy farmer checkoff funds the single largest source of funding in 2016, as follows: 

DMI accounted for $1.527 million and Midwest Dairy Association accounted for $1.203 million. 

The balance of the $4.2 million in dairy checkoff funds came from ADA Northeast $30,162, ADA Indiana $81,822, ADA Mideast $38,952, California Milk Advisory Board $29,800, Dairy Council of AZ $164,210, Dairy Max $18,750, Florida Dairy Farmers $150,000, Idaho Dairy Products Commission $175,000, Maine Dairy Promotion Board $10,000, Midatlantic Dairy Association $43,772, Midwest Dairy Association $1,203,000, National Dairy Council $15,000, New England, Dairy Promotion board $100,000, Oregon Dairy Products Commission $117,818, UDIA of Michigan $147,825, Washington State Dairy Products Commission $210,000, and Western Dairy Association $59,139

Interestingly, PepsiCo did not even appear in the 2016 contributions, but contributed just $12,500 through Quaker Foods in 2016. In both 2014 and 2015, the combined contribution by PepsiCo and its subsidiary Quaker Foods was $450,000 and $430,000, respectively.

While dairy farmer checkoff organizations were by far the largest GENYOUth contributor, funding nearly half of GENYOUth’s budget in all three available 990 years, the roughly $4 million annually for each of those three years represents 1% of the total annual checkoff funds paid by dairy farmers annually.

It is unclear how many other moving parts to the program are funded in other areas of national and regional checkoff budgets apart from these direct contributions.

GENYOUth’s main program, FUTP60, is described as the dairy farmers’ in-school youth wellness program that is reported to be in 73,000 schools affecting 38 million students, its actual promotion of milk and dairy products has been limited to the deeper layers of online toolkits that accompany several of the available ‘plays’ a school can choose to implement to earn grants for physical education or cafeteria equipment, such as smoothie makers, coolers for milk and the separate implementation of mobile school breakfast carts.

In addition, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) all parties signed with USDA in 2010-11 prevents the program’s partners from using FUTP60 to advertise.

When a school picks one ‘healthy eating play’ and one ‘physical activity play’ from the list of choices in the FUTP60 ‘playbook,’ a school can qualify for up to $4000 in grants annually to ‘kickstart healthy changes.’

When the National Football League (NFL), PepsiCo and others who partner in FUTP60 are involved, their brands have immediate recognition. They don’t need to say a word to get advertising value.

For example, the NFL brand is obvious in many of the ‘plays’ that even use its name, such as NFL FLAG-in-Schools – Get in the Game!” This has advertising brand value.

Another example, when PepsiCo is presented with a GENYOUth award and the CEO uses that platform to talk about PepsiCo’s plant-based health foods and beverages coming on the market – some directly competing as dairy alternatives — that has advertising value for PepsiCo.

Where is the advertising value for dairy farmers? What brand do the underwriting dairy farmers showcase for their participation? Any photo of milk is strategically positioned so the brand cannot be seen, unless it’s fairlife. And dairy farmers get five simple words that are sometimes included and sometimes omitted from GENYOUth and FUTP60 materials: ‘including fat-free and low-fat dairy.’

Of the dozens of ‘plays’ in the FUTP60 playbook that schools can choose to implement, most have toolkits that focus on empowering students to consider “sustainability” and nutrition of the snacks they choose. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are emphasized. Discussions about milk and dairy are found in the deeper layers of these toolkits but are not part of direct action implemented in the ‘play.’

When ‘plays’ are implemented and a grant is awarded for equipment, an school assembly is often held, and in some of those cases, dairy could be highlighted if the equipment is a smoothie maker using yogurt, for example.

In fact, any number of these ‘plays’ are positive for young people, but the dietary emphasis of the healthy eating ‘plays’ is on whole grains, fruits and vegetables with “including fat-free and low-fat dairy” as the five little words educating future consumers. No mandatory checkoff funds are coming into GENYOUth from these other commodities.

As for the mobile breakfast carts funded through GENYOUth, they offer an opportunity to sell more milk, yogurt and cheese as breakfast options students can choose from. Checkoff staff point to these sales opportunities as the benefit that trickles down for the dairy farmer’s investment.

Still, the offerings remain fat-free and low-fat, and the interactions with these 73,000 schools are cumulative – not ongoing. Once a play is implemented and an assembly is held and a grant is given and equipment is purchased, a few posters may show up in the lunchroom, but school staff confide months or years later they tend not to even realize they are FUTP60 participants.

Life goes on. Lunch goes on. Breakfast goes on. There is no real tracking of the results in terms of whether the 38 million school children ‘touched’ by the program cumulatively since its inception in 2010 are drinking their milk or eating their cheese and yogurt.

Meanwhile, the dairy education and promotion aspect is limited to fat-free and low-fat milk, nonfat yogurt, and skim-processed cheese as dairy farmers are cobbled to USDA by both the Dietary Guidelines and the GENYOUth memorandum of understanding.

In effect, mandatory dairy producer funds are toting the government’s dietary and sustainability message instead of being free to boldly put dairy’s best and most nutritious foot forward with whole milk, real butter and full-fat natural cheese for growing young bodies and minds to be empowered. 

Given that the dairy farmer checkoff organizations have been primary funders of GENYOUth since its inception to the tune of around $4 million a year (times 8 = approximately $32 mil cumulative) — and given the fact that PepsiCo seems to have missed at least one year out of the three years for which records are available, having given just $1 million over three years, cumulatively — maybe the “Everyday Superheroes” theme of the November 2018 GENYOUth Gala in New York City should have taken a different route.

Perhaps the Vanguard Award should have been presented in gratitude to The American Dairy Farmer instead of PepsiCo. 

Then, instead of hearing the PepsiCo CEO talk about the ‘oat milk’ their Quaker Foods is launching, the Gala attendees could have viewed a professional video of America’s dairy farmers… working every day through weather and markets to care for the cows and the land, and the nutritious benefits of real milk for each one of us.

Now that would have been impressive for all of those corporation CEOs and world “thought leaders” in attendance to have seen.


2 thoughts on “GENYOUth finances raise eyebrows

  1. Pingback: Dairy checkoff GENYOUth ‘hero’ PepsiCo partners with Beyond Meat to market plant-based alternative protein snacks, drinks | Ag Moos

  2. Pingback: Smoke and mirrors | Ag Moos

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