New York has been selected as one of four states to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Greek Yogurt Pilot Program within the National School Lunch Program for the 2013-14 school year.
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would begin a pilot program to test cost-effectiveness of including Greek yogurt in school meal programs. Greek yogurt offers higher nutritional benefits than traditional yogurt with less sugar, carbohydrates, sodium and lactose as well as an increase in protein per ounce. Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee will join New York in the pilot program.
In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the program, and the Governor's Office in Washington, D.C. maintained a dialogue with USDA staff over the last five months to ensure New York, the nation's top yogurt producing state, was selected for the pilot program. As a result, USDA is now seeking bidders to supply 4-ounce and 24-ounce containers of Greek yogurt to schools across New York.
New York state yogurt processors producing 692 million pounds of yogurt in 2012 compared to 587 million pounds of yogurt in California. In 2011, California produced 627 million pounds of yogurt, compared to 554 million pounds here in New York State. New York State is also the fourth largest milk producing state in the country, producing 13.2 billion pounds of milk in 2012.
Gustavo Badino, general manager of Alpina Foods, which runs a yogurt plant in Batavia, was excited to learn that New York has been chosen to participate in the pilot program.
"This program will benefit Upstate New York's local economy while bringing healthy protein alternatives to students across the state," Badino said. "With its high protein and calcium content, authentic Greek yogurt like Alpina Greek is a delicious and natural addition to the School Lunch Program."