U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Richard Hanna today announced that New York State schools have been chosen to participate in a Greek yogurt pilot program issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). New York State was one of four states chosen for this program, and is a natural fit because of its burgeoning Greek yogurt manufacturing sector and high favorability toward the program among New York school districts. Senator Gillibrand and Representative Hanna have been working with the USDA and New York yogurt manufacturers to create this pilot program.
“I am proud to announce that New York State Schools have been chosen for the Greek yogurt pilot program,” said Senator Gillibrand, the first New York Senator on the Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “Our dairy industry is vital to New York State. This program will provide healthy meals to students and create jobs for our community.”
“I am pleased USDA has agreed to launch a Greek yogurt school meal pilot program right here in New York,” U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna said. “This is a win for our students who will have access to this nutritious food at school. It is also 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.”
New York State leads the country in Greek yogurt production. The purpose of the pilot program is to test the cost effectiveness of offering high-protein Greek yogurt in the school lunch program, which feeds 31 million students monthly nationwide. The Greek yogurt pilot program would also promote the health benefits of Greek yogurt. Compared to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt has twice the protein, less sodium and fewer carbohydrates.
If the pilot program is successful in the trial states, Greek yogurt could become a permanent fixture on the USDA Foods List for school meals. In addition to New York, Tennessee, Idaho, and Arizona will also participate in the pilot program.
Senator Gillibrand and Representative Hanna have long been proponents of incorporating Greek yogurt into school lunch programs. Last August, while touring the Chobani Yogurt Plant in Norwich, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Hanna led a bipartisan coalition to support the reclassification of Greek yogurt under the USDA’s MyPlate nutrition guidelines. Just last month, the USDA finalized the first Commercial Item Description for Greek yogurt, differentiating it from other types of yogurt. In January, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Hanna urged the USDA to select New York Schools for the Greek yogurt pilot program.