Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his administration is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to choose New York State to implement the strained Greek yogurt pilot program.
A letter from New York State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the state's interest in being chosen for the pilot program, as well as encouraged USDA to amend the protein crediting standards to better reflect the nutritional value of Greek yogurt.
"As the nation's leader in Greek yogurt production, New York is the natural fit to be selected to implement this pilot program," Governor Cuomo said. "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. 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."
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would begin a pilot program to test the cost-effectiveness of including Greek yogurt in school meal programs. Through the State Food Policy Council and Farm to School Program, New York has demonstrated the expertise and infrastructure necessary to implement the program. This pilot program 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 4 ounce cup.
As a result of New York's conducive environment to yogurt production, the state has become the nation's leader in strained Greek yogurt production with plants such as Chobani, Fage, Alpina and Mueller-Quaker throughout the state. In the last five years, New York's yogurt plants have more than doubled in number and production, and milk production grew by nearly 850 million pounds. Following the state's first Yogurt Summit last year, Governor Cuomo announced new initiatives aimed to increase milk production while lowering cost for dairy farmers in New York.
The USDA pilot program would be part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, which provide meals in public and private non-for-profit schools.