Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Richard Hanna today announced New York-based Chobani Greek Yogurt will be the yogurt of choice in a USDA pilot program to serve Greek yogurt in school lunches. New York State was chosen for the pilot program earlier this month because of its burgeoning Greek yogurt manufacturing sector and the high level of interest in the program among New York State school districts. The federal officials announced today that the USDA has selected Chobani for the contract, and their yogurt will be served as part of the new pilot program that is set to start in September 2013.
The New York members led the effort to bring the pilot program to New York State and for it to include local New York yogurt producers.
“Today’s news is fantastic for Chobani, a great New York company whose product will now be tested in school lunch programs in four different states,” said Senator Schumer. “What’s more, this is the next step in ensuring that New York school children have access to a more nutritious, protein-rich product, which benefits our New York Greek yogurt producers and dairy farmers to boot. Starting this school year, students across the state will be balancing New York-made Chobani Greek yogurt on their lunch trays and I am proud that this pilot has come to fruition.”
“Greek yogurt like Chobani is packed with healthy protein that our schoolchildren deserve access to in their school lunches,” said Senator Gillibrand, the first New Yorkers to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly four decades. “New York State is home to a strong and growing Greek yogurt industry. And when we connect Chobani to lunchrooms across the state and across the country, we can give our children better access to healthy, nutritious food, while strengthening New York’s own dairy industry. I am pleased with the USDA’s selection and look forward to building on this promising initiative.”
“Thanks to USDA’s pilot program, students throughout the country will soon be able to enjoy Chobani as part of their school meals,” Rep. Hanna said. “This is a nutritious and healthy option for our children, and I am pleased that Chenango County’s own Chobani will be in school cafeterias. This is good news for our state’s growing Greek yogurt industry, as well as the hardworking Upstate dairy farmers who support it. I will continue to pursue policies that promote this important key driver of our economy in Central New York.”
“We strongly believe that everyone, especially kids should have access to simple, delicious, nourishing foods so we are thrilled to bring our authentic, strained Greek Yogurt to K-12 schools as part of the USDA’s pilot program,” said Chobani Chief Communications Officer Nicki Briggs, MS, RD. “Kids will love the great taste of Chobani and parents and school leaders will love the benefit of Chobani as a protein-packed menu option.”
New York State leads the country in Greek yogurt production. The pilot program will 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.
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representative Hanna have long been proponents of incorporating Greek yogurt into school lunch programs. On June 18, 2012 during a press event, Senator Schumer released a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that they create this pilot program to bring Greek yogurt to New York school lunches. 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. In January, Senators Schumer, Gillibrand and Congressman Hanna urged the USDA to select New York Schools for the Greek yogurt pilot program. In a January 28, 2013 letter to Senator Schumer, the USDA committed to initiating this pilot program. In June, the USDA finalized the first Commercial Item Description for Greek yogurt, differentiating it from other types of yogurt.