Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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After Meeting With Chobani, Gillibrand-Hanna Urge USDA To Reclassify Greek Yogurt In Nutrition Guidelines

While Greek Yogurt Contains Twice The Amount Of Protein As Regular Yogurt, It Is Not Considered A Protein For Federal School Lunch Program

August 30, 2012

Norwich, NY - While standing at the Chobani Yogurt Plant, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Richard Hanna today announced support for the reclassification of Greek yogurt under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate nutrition guides. Currently, Greek yogurt is not differentiated from traditional yogurt. However, Greek yogurt has twice the protein than regular yogurt. 

“Greek yogurt should be a protein option during lunch in our schools,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Our dairy industry is vital to New York State. Greek yogurt has so much protein because it requires up to three times the amount of milk. This is a win for our students and a win for our community.”

“Greek yogurt is a booming industry in upstate New York that is creating jobs and revitalizing our farm businesses,” said Representative Hanna. “Greek yogurt also happens to be tasty, healthy and rich in protein.  It is only right that Greek yogurt be properly counted as an protein in school lunches so that more children will be able to enjoy this nutritious food.  Updating the nutrition guidelines will have a real positive impact on our kids and our growing Greek yogurt industry.”

“We founded Chobani with the goal of making real, delicious yogurt accessible to everyone. But currently our nation's schools struggle to make this healthy offering available to children throughout the school day,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani President and CEO. “We strongly support Senator Gillibrand and Representative Hanna's initiative to differentiate Greek yogurt from regular yogurt and make this protein packed option more affordable under the National School Meal Program Guidelines.”

In their letter to the USDA, Senator Gillibrand and Rep. Hanna urged the Secretary of Agriculture to update the MyPlate nutrition guides to reflect the health benefits of Greek yogurt. They asserted that Greek yogurt should be permitted as an affordable, high protein option under the National School Lunch Program, which is responsible for feeding 31 million students daily. The inclusion of Greek yogurt in the National School Lunch Program would save school systems money while purchasing wholesome meals for students.

Senator Gillibrand and Rep. Hanna’s full letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is below:

Dear Mr. Secretary, 

We are writing to you today to urge the department to provide more detailed nutritional values specific for Greek yogurt under the MyPlate nutrition guides.  Currently, Greek yogurt is not differentiated from traditional yogurt, yet it has twice the protein, more calcium, and is low in fat.  

Greek yogurt can provide critical nutrients for an affordable and balanced meal within the Dairy and Protein Food Groups.  In fact, Greek yogurt has more protein than beans, yet it is not included in the list of protein sources in USDA nutrition materials, nor is it listed as a type of yogurt on the dairy page.  Greek yogurt is one of the fastest growing food industries and has become a nutritious and popular snack for adults and children across America. We respectfully request that the USDA update their nutrition guidelines and education materials to reflect the positive health benefits of Greek yogurt. 

In addition, we urge that the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs allow schools and administrators to appropriately account for high-protein Greek yogurt as an affordable protein option. These programs served more than 31 million student meals daily in 2011. This policy improvement will not just allow schools to stretch their scarce meal dollars, but will give students a tasty way to get the protein needed by school-aged children to grow and thrive. 

If our children are going to have the opportunity to reach their potential, they need a healthy start.  We look forward to working with the USDA to include Greek yogurt as a healthy, locally produced, choice for all Americans.