It’s understandable if you see the annual GENYOUth Gala as being a bit on the extravagant side. It’s a formal-attire affair held each year in New York City and draws famous athletes and CEOs from some of the nation’s most recognized companies.
It’s a very different look and a very different strategy from the traditional efforts done to support dairy farmers’ priorities.
But, I ask that you not get blinded by the glitz and glamour of the evening and instead look deeper into the strategic aspect of why the event remains on the calendar every year.
I first want to summarize the two most important points I can make:
- The gala supports a goal that is near and dear to every dairy farmer I have ever met – childhood health and wellness.
- Not a single farmer checkoff dollar is used to put on the event. The gala is underwritten through third-party sponsorships, table sales and on-site auction purchases.
One of the great responsibilities we have as your dairy checkoff is to use your investment as wisely and strategically as we can. This is why we seek globally recognized partnerships that can extend your commitment on goals that matter to you. You see this with our partners, such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Domino’s and Pizza Hut, who outspend your checkoff dollars by a 10-to-1 ratio on efforts that move more dairy.
We have taken this formula to support your commitment to children and schools. Ten years ago, we partnered with the National Football League to create Fuel Up to Play 60, which has gotten more dairy and wellness messaging through the doors of 73,000 U.S. schools, reaching about 38 million students.
GENYOUth is the force behind the gala and the event engages people and companies we previously could only dream about reaching. Among them are:
- More than 50 CEOs who employ 1.5 million people and generate $5 trillion-plus in revenue
- 500-plus high-net worth individuals
- Dignitaries, athletes and executives from Fortune 500 companies, including food, fitness, agriculture, tech, finance and media
I get it – the gala is quite a happening. But, it takes a certain look, feel and venue to attract this type of audience.
One of the most exciting results of GENYOUth’s work is that is has generated funds that place breakfast carts in schools. GENYOUth, with financial contributions from private businesses that attend the gala, supported the installation of carts in more than 200 schools over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. The carts increase access to breakfast among 100,000 students daily, serving an estimated 5.8 million pounds of milk annually.
But, the gala is more than that. Mixed among the crowd of corporate influencers are dairy farmers. Dozens of dairy farmers from across the country have attended the past three galas and will continue to do so as an opportunity to interact with leaders from other industries.
It is an opening to showcase your purpose-driven commitment to children and to make a connection between the farm and Wall Street. These CEOs and other leaders are like the average consumer who no longer has a connection to the farm. The gala helps build that bridge. In fact, we’re taking it a step further this year by honoring a farmer – along with other leaders – who has gone above and beyond to help make schools and children in their community much healthier.
And that gets back to the core of it all. As Fuel Up to Play 60 celebrates its 10-year anniversary, farmers should feel prideful knowing they have built the nation’s most recognized and effective children’s health and wellness program. It also allows farmers to put a face on the industry by participating in Fuel Up to Play 60 events with their local youth and checkoff staffs.
There is nothing like Fuel Up to Play 60 being done by any other checkoff group. We have awarded more than $48 million in grants that have improved school wellness and moved more dairy these last 10 years. Schools used grants to implement programs that grow breakfast participation, including providing access to smoothies, coffee and hot chocolate, plus grab-and-go opportunities that allow students to eat breakfast (which includes milk and dairy) in the classroom. These efforts have contributed to an additional 1.2 billion pounds of milk use at schools.
So, when this year’s gala takes place on Dec. 4, you may see something that looks a little like a Hollywood red carpet event. But, I ask that you not be distracted by its appearance and remember the true meaning of the night. The gala is helping achieve your goals.
And it’s not taking a penny from farmers to make it happen.