Sen. Charles E. Schumer asked federal officials Monday to make it more affordable for public schools to serve Greek yogurt, saying it would expose more students to the high-protein food and boost an already-booming business in New York.
Schumer sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking that he modify the federal school lunch program to incorporate Greek yogurt as a high-protein meat alternative.
Current school nutritional standards treat Greek yogurt the same as traditional yogurt, despite the higher protein content and cost of Greek yogurt, Schumer said. He said a change in standards would make it easier for schools to purchase smaller, less costly servings of Greek yogurt.
"With a stroke of a pen Secretary Vilsack could provide healthier foods for New York's schoolchildren and an economic boost for yogurt makers and dairy farmers, two of the state's most important industries," Schumer said, adding that tofu was recently given its own standards as a high-protein meat alternative.
The Greek yogurt business has been booming nationwide as consumers seek healthy, "authentic" foods, and the New York State dairy industry has been a big beneficiary. Two of the largest Greek yogurt producers, Chobani and Fage, have built production facilities in upstate New York and buy tons of milk from dairy farmers in the region.
And a joint venture between PepsiCo and Theo Muller GmbH of Germany is building a Greek yogurt plant in Batavia, across the street from a new Alpina yogurt factory.
Schumer promoted his case Monday in visits to the corporate headquarters of Chobani in Norwich and the Fage plant in Johnstown.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said Schumer's letter had been received and was being reviewed.