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Vikings' COO Kevin Warren on Team's New Partnership with Land O'Lakes to Help Kids be Healthy



Improved nutrition and more opportunity for physical activity:  two sides of a very valuable coin.

By Chris Policinski and Kevin Warren

What do we – the CEO of a Minnesota-headquartered farmer-owned food and agriculture cooperative and the COO of the local NFL franchise – have in common? 

Something very important, it turns out. 

We both know that there's a formula for ensuring that Minnesota's youth are "future-ready" -- and that two crucial ingredients of that recipe for student success are better nutrition and more physical activity, in both the school and community environment.

Each of us, longtime Minnesotans, represents an organization that has taken concrete steps toward ensuring healthy high-achievement on the part of our state's students.  We've done this through financial and in-kind support of GENYOUth Foundation's powerful Fuel Up to Play 60 program -- and its expansion into local schools right here in our backyard.

At Land O'Lakes, we know that intelligent nutrition education begins with kids understanding what agriculture is; where their food (dairy and otherwise) comes from; eating a balanced diet; and why it's important to their academic performance. Fuel Up to Play 60, the nation's largest in-school nutrition and physical activity program, is committed not only to creating a culture of wellness in schools, but to empowering kids to be the drivers in bringing about changes in their schools' wellness climates. In the process, the program brings urgent farm-to-fork and farm-to-school insights to light – knowledge around which will be the basis for American's health in the coming decades. 

These are all things we want to further. And it is why Land O'Lakes is committing to a multi-year partnership with GENYOUth, a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and educate youth to improve their nutrition and increase physical activity. Fuel Up to Play 60 is their flagship program. We're proud to support GENYOUth's commitment to youth empowerment around school and community wellness and, as GENYOUth's CEO Alexis Glick has put it, "making American youth the stewards of their own healthy, high-achieving futures." 

It's a partnership we're excited about – not simply because supporting healthy futures for our kids is the right thing to do, which it is.  But because today's Fuel Up to Play 60 kids are tomorrow's workforce, tomorrow's parents, and tomorrow's consumers. It simply makes business sense to support this generation's quest for healthy, productive, and fulfilled lives.

The NFL, along with the National Dairy Council, the founding partners of Fuel Up to Play 60, now celebrate reaching 38 million students in 73,000 schools across the country. The Minnesota Vikings along with other NFL teams, owners, coaches, current players, alumni players, club executives, and other personnel play an active role in the critical importance of students achieving 60 minutes of physical activity daily through Fuel Up to Play 60 activities at the school level, year round. 

The Vikings, are privileged to lend the excitement and the motivation that pro football brings to the list of things that help inspire students, including those here in Minnesota, to "eat better and move more." 

To support that commitment, at a recent town Hall in October at the University of Minnesota, hosted by Midwest Dairy Council and GENYOUth, the Vikings committed grant support to help bring Fuel Up to Play 60 resources to more Minnesota schools than ever. As was said on stage that day, and as we say to you now, we're going to do all we can possibly do, not only with our organizations but with our partners, to step up and ensure a future for our kids – since they are the future.

We call attention to our joint support of Fuel Up to Play 60 because it provides us an opportunity to share several firmly held beliefs around this crucially important topic:

1.Our youth must be empowered. As they always have been in America, youth are our most powerful leaders and engines of social change. We – all of us -- are obligated to support them in creating climates of wellness in schools and communities, not simply for their good, but our nations. To stand by idly is irresponsible at best.

2.Public-private partnerships are absolutely indispensable. The interrelated crises in America of food insecurity, childhood obesity, and physical inactivity can only be solved by the involvement of all stakeholders -- in the form of public-private partnerships that support overburdened school districts, committed health and wellness nonprofits, and other dedicated players.

3.Future-readiness is the bottom line. The next generation of Minnesota youth of necessity must understand how to responsibly grow, produce, consume, and distribute nutritious food in an increasingly productive and sustainable way -- to feed not just themselves, but a growing global population. In tandem, however, it is vital they cultivate lifestyle habits in which vigorous and regular physical activity is both habitual and enjoyable. This dual mission is the sum and substance of Fuel Up to Play 60.

We invite you to join us by championing any and all efforts to empower Minnesota youth as leaders, solution-generators, and change-makers around their own healthy futures. The cause is urgent, the stakes are high, and the time is now.


Chris Policinski is President and CEO of Land O'Lakes, Inc.  Kevin Warren is the Chief Operating Officer of the Minnesota Vikings.

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