The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being lobbied to choose New York State to implement the strained Greek yogurt pilot program.
In a statement, NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined the efforts and included a letter sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack by New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine to express the state’s interest in the pilot program.
Back in January, USDA had announced that it would begin a pilot program to test the cost-effectiveness of including Greek yogurt in school meal programs.
This pilot program, which comes under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs which provide meals in public and private non-for-profit schools, will demonstrate the benefits of including strained Greek yogurt as a healthy, cost effective food entitlement for school meals.
Strained Greek yogurt offers higher nutritional benefits than unstrained yogurt with less sugar, carbohydrates, sodium and lactose as well as an increase in protein per ounce. If the USDA recognizes the higher protein content for strained Greek yogurt, schools offering strained Greek yogurt could save $.02-$.20 per four ounce cup.
“The production of strained Greek yogurt continues to be an enormous success story in New York, with the most recent $206 million Mueller-Quaker yogurt plant deal Governor Cuomo successfully engineered in 2012. In the last five years, New York’s yogurt plants have more than doubled in number and production.
Over the same time period, the amount of milk used to make yogurt in New York increased dramatically from 158 million pounds to about 1.2 billion pounds. In 2012 New York plants produced 553 million pounds of yogurt and in 2013 this number is projected to increase to 692 million pounds. Most of the increase in yogurt production is attributable to the introduction and production of strained Greek yogurt as well as a recently improved dairy business climate spearheaded by Governor Cuomo.”
As a result of New York’s proactive pursuit of yogurt producers, the state has received hundreds of millions in capital investments by Chobani, Fage, Alpina and Mueller-Quaker. Following the state’s first Yogurt Summit last year, new initiatives were unveiled to increase milk production while lowering cost for dairy farmers in New York.
Gov. Cuomo noted that as the nation’s leader in Greek yogurt production, New York is the natural fit to be selected to implement this pilot program.
“Our state government is partnering with the private sector to bring down barriers to business growth, and the results are showing in New York’s tremendous yogurt boom,” said Gov. Cuomo. “New York State is eager to demonstrate that serving delicious Greek Yogurt in our cafeterias will both improve the health of our children while helping our schools save money – a real win-win.”