Minister for Education Meets Irish Boxing Captain & Ambassador for new “Moo Crew” Primary School Initiative

Ruairi Quinn T.D. Minister for Education is pictured with Irish boxer, Darren O’Neill, who captained the Irish boxing team at the London 2012 Olympic Games and is also a qualified primary school teacher.  Darren O’Neill is an ambassador for the National Dairy Council’s new primary school initiative, Moo Crew: The Primary Dairy Moovement.


Developed by teachers for teachers and primary school children from 3rd to 6th class, the programme is currently being introduced to primary schools throughout the country.  The programme is underpinned by nutritional expertise, based on the latest guidelines of the Department of Health’s Food Pyramid and links learning about a healthy, balanced diet with the importance of an active lifestyle. It extends to learning about dairy and farming as part of our lives in Ireland, with one of the lesson plans exploring where milk comes from and its journey ‘from farm to fridge’.


Zoë Kavanagh, chief executive of The National Dairy Council explains that 37% of girls and 27% of boys aged from 5 – 12 years of age in Ireland have inadequate calcium intakes in their diet. (Ref 1).  “Moo Crew is an educational programme intended to bridge that nutritional gap by helping children to learn about the importance of the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group, in a fun way,” says Ms. Kavanagh.


Support for primary school teachers includes four different lesson plans with activities and web resources.  The lesson plans are available on


Lesson Plan 1: Nutrition

Understanding the Food Pyramid, awareness of the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group and to learn to make healthy food choices. This will be supported by web-based interactive games and resources.


Lesson Plan 2: Physical Health

Identifying the role of specific nutrients in relation to activity, growth and development (in particular bone growth), and increasing awareness of the importance of physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.


Lesson Plan 3: Farm to Fridge!

Understanding where milk comes from and the process from farm to the fridge!


Lesson Plan 4: Get Involved

Enables pupils to generate creative ideas for taking part in National Dairy Week and fun ways of sharing what they’ve learned about nutrition, dairy and healthy and active lifestyles with their peers.


Darren O’Neill, a qualified teacher and world class athlete and boxer, has a keen interest in the future ofIreland’s youth.  “These trends in relation to inadequate calcium levels amongst Irish school children are worrying, especially when children in these age groups are at such an important phase of bone growth and development,” (Ref 2)  said Darren O’Neill.


“I hope we can help to improve attitudes towards eating a balanced diet and to living a healthy lifestyle which includes physical activity,” said Darren.  “This programme is designed to be engaging and interactive at classroom level – but I hope it will also help to reinforce the importance of this information to teachers and extend some of the messages and positive habits home to parents and families.”


Darren taught 8-13 year olds in a Dublin school for three years while also training as part of the IABA high performance squad for the London 2012 Olympic Games.  A world class athlete, Darren played hurling at intercounty level, with numerous medals including an All-Ireland U-21 for Kilkenny.  In more recent times his focus has been on boxing, working with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association supported by the Irish Sports Council, Darren is a multi-medal winner in boxing including European Silver Medallist (2010), Gold at the European Union Championships (2009), 11 international gold medals in world class championships and 13 national boxing titles (1997-2011).  In addition to his role as boxing team captain in the 2012 London Games, Darren was also flag bearer for Ireland at closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games.






Ref 1.  National Children’s Food Survey 2003-2004, Aged 5-12 years.


Ref 2   Recommended Dietary Allowances:

  • Milk, yogurt and cheese are important sources of calcium. Calcium is needed for the growth and development of bone in children, and the maintenance of our bones and teeth.
  • The Department of Health’s Food Pyramid recommends three servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day, and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Those aged 9-18 years need 5 servings, due to the importance of calcium during this life stage.
  • Examples of a serving from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group include a 200ml glass of milk, a 125ml carton of yogurt or a 25g (match-box sized) piece of hard cheese. Low-fat varieties from this food group are encouraged.

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