New York State continues to prove its worth as a leading Greek yogurt producer.
Chobani Greek yogurt will be on cafeteria trays in the state’s public school systems starting in September. Locally, schooling is being offered to provide job-seekers the required certifications needed to work in nearby yogurt plants.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture chose Chobani, a New York-based company, to be the yogurt supplier for the pilot program that will test the cost effectiveness of serving Greek yogurt in schools.
Chobani will be the supplier for the whole pilot, which also includes Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee.
Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Utica, who have been strong supporters of getting Greek yogurt into New York schools, announced the selection of Chobani on Friday.
“This is the next step in ensuring that New York schoolchildren have access to a more nutritious, protein-rich product, which benefits our New York Greek yogurt producers and dairy farmers to boot,” Schumer said in a statement.
The USDA opened bids for Greek yogurt suppliers earlier this month.
If the program is deemed successful, Greek yogurt could be placed on the USDA’s approved foods list and be served in schools nationwide.
Batavia is home to yogurt plants Alpina, which recently purchased 10 acres of land as the groundwork for an expansion, and Quaker Muller.
The Genesee County Economic Development Center is now accepting applications for its food processing training program, which certifies people to work in the food processing industry, which would qualify individuals to work in the yogurt plants in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.
The program accepts up to 25 people, and the deadline for applications is Sept. 1. Graduates from the first round of the program are already working in local companies, according to the center.
It obtained a grant to fund the project from National Fuel Gas Corp. and received additional support from the Finger Lakes Food Cluster Initiative.
The center received 78 applications, many of which were from people outside Genesee County, for its first class and hopes to get more for its new class, said Steven Hyde, CEO of the center in a statement.
“It shows that the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park is a regional economic asset and that people are willing to travel for good jobs,” he added.