The State Department of Agriculture & Markets and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow New York to participate in a pilot program that would serve Greek yogurt in schools, Gannett’s Haley Viccaro reports.
The USDA plans to launch a National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program for some states to test the pilot program of serving Greek yogurt in schools for its nutritional benefits and as a meat alternative.
“Through our State Food Policy Council and our Farm to School Program we have the expertise and capacity to run a world class pilot program to demonstrate the benefits of including strained Greek yogurt as a healthy, cost effective food entitlement for school lunches,” wrote Darrel Aubertine, commissioner of the State Department of Agriculture, in a letter to the USDA.
Aubertine said Greek yogurt offers many nutritional benefits for children including less sugar, carbohydrates, sodium and lactose and is also high in protein. He said New York has more than doubled in yogurt plant number and production over the last five years.
The state is home to yogurt companies including Chobani, Fage, Alpina and Mueller-Quaker. In 2012 the state produced about 553 million pounds of yogurt and uses 1.2 billion pounds of milk for production, Aubertine said.
In June 2012 Sen. Charles Schumer asked the USDA to consider having Greek yogurt served in schools as an alternative to meat. He urged the department to have New York participate in the pilot program to bolster the state’s dairy farm business and yogurt producers.
“Improving available quantities of strained Greek yogurt in school meals will allow schools to more affordably offer a meat alternative to vegetarians and culturally diverse groups,” Aubertine wrote in the letter.