USDA Selects New York to Test Chobani in School Lunches

Image Washington -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected New York as one of four states that will be allowed to test Greek yogurt as a meat alternative in subsidized school lunches this fall. Beginning in September, the USDA will allow the protein-rich yogurt to be served in federal school lunch programs in New York, Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said today. The selection of the four states for the pilot program follows a USDA decision in January that allowed Greek yogurt to be classified as a protein in the federal school lunch program. Greek yogurt has about twice the protein of regular yogurt.

Schumer, D-N.Y., and other members of New York's congressional delegation have pushed for the change, saying it will provide a big boost to the state's economy and its dairy farms.

The Greek yogurt industry has thrived in Upstate New York, led by the explosive growth of Chobani in Chenango County, as well as Fage in Fulton County, and Alpina and Muller Quaker in Batavia. New York state companies have a market share of about 70 percent of the nation's $6 billion Greek yogurt industry.

The pilot program will test the cost-effectiveness of Greek yogurt in school lunches from September through December. If successful, Greek yogurt could become part of the USDA Foods List for schools across the nation -- meaning states could use federal money to buy the yogurt for their federal school lunch programs.

"Schools in New York, and the other three states participating in the pilot, will soon see that Greek yogurt is an affordable and nutritious high-protein option for their menus," Schumer said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, whose district includes the Chobani plant, called the USDA decision "a big step forward for our Greek yogurt industry and the dairy farms that support it. Agriculture is a key driver of our economy in Central New York, and supporting the growing Greek yogurt business is one way we can maintain and improve this important part of our heritage."

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had also urged the USDA to establish the pilot program and worked with Hanna in a bipartisan coalition to support the reclassification of Greek yogurt under federal nutrition guidelines known as MyPlate.

The USDA issued a solicitation today, asking Greek yogurt manufacturers to supply the orders for the four states. Bids are due on July 22, with contract awards expected by the end of the month.

(Source: Mark Weiner,
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07