April 11, 2011

Cornell president asks: 'Got milk?'

Perhaps you have noticed the "Got Milk?" posters sprouting up around campus showing Cornell President David Skorton sporting the iconic milk mustache.

They represent the launch of a campuswide campaign by Cornell Dining and Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) to promote the nutritional value of milk and Cornell's central role in local, state and national dairy industries.

The idea for a milk-mustachioed Skorton came from nutritional sciences student Jamie Cohen '12. Working under Cornell Dining's nutritionist Michele Wilbur, Cohen had hoped to draw a white mustache on a photo of Skorton and post it in the North Campus dining halls -- provided the president gave his assent.

"Not only did he want to partake," Wilbur said, "he painted the mustache on himself."

After teaming up with CALS Communications and receiving permission from the national "Got Milk?" campaign, the first poster was printed. It emphasizes the cognitive benefits of drinking milk and features the statement: "Packed with high-quality protein and B vitamins, it's like liquid brainpower."

According to Wilbur, B vitamins help keep energy levels high and also help the body combat stress.

"It really is like nature's energy drink," she said.

Future posters will promote other nutritional aspects of milk -- such as its calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous -- and feature some of Cornell's most recognizable "personalities."

Like who? The organizers are mum, saying that the speculation on campus is already creating the sort of buzz that this sort of educational-promotional campaign is aiming for.

But they didn't deny that a Big Red athlete might get involved. After all, scientific research supports low-fat chocolate milk as one of the "quickest, easiest and best recovery food for athletes," said Wilbur. It is not only chock-full of carbohydrates and electrolytes, but also includes essential amino acids and the added bonus of protein, which is not found in most artificial recovery drinks, she said.

CALS and the Department of Food Science, home to the Cornell Dairy, have supported local and national dairy industries for decades, through cutting-edge research from grass to glass -- in animal science, milk production, environmental health, food safety, distribution and marketing. As New York's land-grant university, Cornell partners with local farmers and regional processors to provide technical support and outreach to the state's $9 billion dairy industry, said Jason Huck, general manager of the Cornell Dairy.

"The 'Got Milk?' campaign is a great way to show our support for our land-grant mission; to reach out and share knowledge with the public," he added.

In addition to the posters and a Facebook page where readers can leave guesses as to who the next mustache model will be, Cornell's "Got Milk?" campaign will host a number of events, including one in the Robert Purcell Community Center April 20, 5 to 7 p.m., featuring T-shirts, giveaways, official "Got Milk?" sticker mustaches and a guest appearance by Cornellia, the life-size Cornell Dairy bovine mascot.

And don't recycle those 14-ounce Hood milk bottles the week of April 11 without checking their bottoms first: One lucky person will find a special "golden ticket" that can be redeemed for an iPod Shuffle.

Paul Bennetch '12 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.