Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Representative Richard Hanna today renewed their call to officially reclassify Greek yogurt as a source of protein under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate nutrition guides. Currently, Greek yogurt is not differentiated from traditional yogurt, despite having twice the amount of protein.
“Greek yogurt is packed with healthy protein and should be available to our children in schools,”
Senator Gillibrand said. “New York State is home to a strong and growing Greek yogurt industry. And when we connect these businesses to lunchrooms across the country, we can give our children better access to healthy, nutritious food, while strengthening New York’s own dairy industry. It’s time to make this commonsense change in our lunchrooms so our students can thrive in the classroom, and help grow our economy.”
“With a burgeoning Greek yogurt industry in our backyard, New York schools are an ideal place to begin offering Greek yogurt as a protein in school lunch programs,” Rep. Hanna said. “By launching a pilot program in New York, schools could offer a high-protein, healthy lunch option for students at a considerably lower cost. The trial period would allow us to see the many benefits that could be gained by school districts, taxpayers, agriculture businesses and –most importantly – in the health of our children.”
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 assert 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.
This thriving industry in New York produces about 70 percent of the nation’s $6 billion Greek yogurt market. An estimated 1,500 New Yorkers are directly employed by the Greek yogurt operations in New York, with 800 more jobs expected to be created as additional Greek yogurt plants begin operation. Opening up an additional market opportunity by getting more Greek yogurt into our schools will not only provide our children a healthy, nutritious food but also further encourage growth of this booming industry in New York.
Senator Gillibrand and Rep. Hanna’s effort has bipartisan support from Senators James Risch (R-ID) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). Their complete letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is attached.