It’s 4th and 40 with 4 seconds on the clock, backed up to our own endzone…

Web-based FUTP60’s branding is long on NFL, short on dairy, while funding is long on dairy, short on NFL

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 8, 2019

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Since 2010, Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) has been GENYOUth’s flagship program, a marriage between the NFL’s Play 60 initiative for students to participate in 60 minutes of exercise daily and the Fuel Up portion touted by DMI and underpinned by USDA, focusing on healthy eating, defined as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, including fat-free and low-fat dairy. This is a program where dairy checkoff outspends the NFL $4 to $1.

In its 2016-18 report “Building the Evidence Base for FUTP60,” published in January 2018 and available here, the FUTP60 program is called “the nation’s largest in-school wellness program with over 73,000 enrolled schools.” The report states further that, “FUTP60 aims to improve K-12 school nutrition and physical activity environments using a student-centered approach and social marketing tactics along with promising practices for creating positive, incremental environmental changes.”

The team regularly tracks key indicators of program reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance, according to the report.

An illustrative infographic documents progress through educator surveys, reporting in January 2018 that of the 38 million students in the 73,000 enrolled schools, 13 million were “actively engaged” in the program.

Under healthy eating, the report states that “because of FUTP60, 14 million students are eating healthier, consuming vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) and that 18 million students are more physically active.” 

But there are no surveys tracking actual food selections as the impact data are self-reported as “educator insights.”

In fact, all of these numbers are self-reported as the fine print states: “Data are based on a combination of annual FUTP60 Utilization Survey of almost 10,000 educators nationwide, funds for FUTP60 reporting and program enrollment data.”

So, just 10,000 educators are surveyed for the report, but 73,000 schools are said to be enrolled.

According to the Jan. 2018 report, the GENYOUth funding supported the following items in 2016-17: 2333 breakfast carts, 2,338 school kitchen equipment upgrades, 1833 projects to create active classrooms, 244 projects to improve physical education, 1984 school-wide walking clubs, and 741 cafeteria makeovers.”

The report describes the funding as “generously donated by America’s dairy farmers, U.S. corporations, non-profit organizations and philanthropies.” (Table 1).

FUTP60 was founded in 2009. GENYOUth was licensed as a non-profit in 2010, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by the National Dairy Council, NFL and USDA in 2011. IRS 990 forms for 2014-16 available at guidestar.org show dairy farmer checkoff organizations are the single largest contributor to GENYOUth – outspending the NFL $4 to $1, while bound by the MOU signed with USDA to not use the platform to advertise. Meanwhile, the entire program is clothed in NFL branding and USDA dietary dogma. Table compiled by Sherry Bunting with available 990s for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Peer-reviewed articles mostly studied the design of the program. However, a 4-year (2011-15) review of the impact of FUTP60 was published in the March 2017 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, available here.

The authors studied participants in schools within the 32 NFL franchise markets, including a range of 50,000 to 100,000 students from just 497 schools (not 10,000 nor 73,000 schools). These 497 schools completed FitnessGram assessments annually for 2011-2015. Program participation was not required, and its implementation was evaluated each year through self-reported school surveys. 

The study measured the main outcomes of aerobic capacity and Body Mass Index (BMI) of students. Results showed that about 19% of the 497 schools were “classified as FUTP60 programming schools.”

Annual improvements in aerobic capacity were “significantly greater in schools that participated in the programs for both girls (3%) and boys (2.9%) compared with non-program schools. The annual improvements in BMI Healthy Fitness Zone achievement were also higher in girls (1.3%) and in boys (1.2%) from schools that participated in the program vs. those that did not.”

The report stated that schools implementing the programs for the entire 4-year period tended to have better improvements in aerobic capacity than schools enrolled for only 2 or 3 years.

Still, the study authors concluded that, “The results … support the utility of the NFL Play 60 physical activity promotion programs for improving youth aerobic capacity and potentially helping to reverse the prevalence of overweight / obesity. However, the overall program adoption rate is low.”

Most of the FUTP60 program is web-based, with toolkits for lead educators at participating schools. In fact, IRS Form 990s for 2014-16 show that of the $7 to $10 million in funds received annually through checkoff and other organizations, roughly $3 to 4 million was used annually in the form of grants to qualifying schools and of the remaining $4 to $6 million, an average of just $109,000 (roughly 1%) from 2014 through 2016 was used for printing or publishing materials.


FUTP60 is mainly a web-based program where a playbook and toolkits are available for schools to choose one healthy eating play and one physical activity play to implement to qualify for up to $4000 a year for physical activity or foodservice equipment or projects. The playbook branding is long on NFL branding, short on dairy. DMI cites the mobile breakfast carts as a ‘prime mover’ for students to consume more fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese that are among the breakfast options offered.

The detailed website is augmented by NFL ‘Play60’ apps that students can download and use on electronic devices to participate in ‘virtual challenges’ relating to movement and activity.

The less than $1 million contributed by the NFL and the larger number Commissioner Goodell articulates based on ‘services’ can be considered as furthering the advertising value for the NFL — attracting future generations to the game while attracting schools to participate in FUTP60. The FUTP60 infographic explains how the NFL “brings excitement to school wellness”… with these 2016-17 statistics: 2700 NFL players, mascots and cheerleaders visited schools, 4200 local events were held, 12,000 flag (football) kits were donated to schools to get over 6 million students moving more, and over $1 million in hometown grants were donated to schools.”

It is certainly true that there is plenty of NFL branding in this program under the auspices of “bringing NFL excitement to physical activity” — even though…

America’s dairy farmers — through their mandatory checkoff organizations — outspend the NFL $4 to $1, according to available 2014, 2015 and 2016 IRS 990s at guidestar.org

Even the video spots created by DMI for this year’s social media lead-up to the 53rd Super Bowl were long on NFL branding and short on dairy messaging. Read more about that, here.

Again, the Youth Improved Incorporated Foundation, doing business as GENYOUth, is short on dairy and long on NFL.

FUTP60 is largely a program focusing on physical activity, and there are other areas of youth wellness that are being added each year.

This year’s new foray for GENYOUth is sleep studies. The new big thing in weight-loss is getting enough sleep.

As it grows, GENYOUth’s founding and primary funding is by dairy farmers who see their message diluted – just like the flavor of their milk at the school lunch counter or mobile breakfast cart.

The thinking is that fat-free and low-fat dairy can be quietly positioned for the future within this overall youth wellness effort. Insiders put stock in the mobile breakfast carts that schools can earn using FUTP60 healthy eating and physical activity ‘plays’ to score ‘touchdowns’.

DMI staff point to these breakfast carts as opportunities for children to consume more fat-free and low-fat milk and yogurt and skim-processed cheese.

Should dairy farmers be investing in youth wellness? That feels like a good idea. But when there are so many questions about how ‘well’ kids are permitted to eat at school, one has to wonder where this is all going.

In terms of truly promoting dairy, this all has the feel of a hope-to-catch, hail-Mary-pass that is destined to be intercepted vs. a game plan that earns a win for the home-team that sits at 4th and 40 with 4 seconds on the clock — backed up to their own endzone.

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