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Greek yogurt added to federal school lunch program

After testing young palates in just a few states, including New York, all of the nation’s schools can go Greek.

Greek yogurt, that is.

Greek yogurt has been added to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of food available in the nationwide school lunch program, beginning this fall, Sen. Charles E. Schumer announced.

“In the last few years, New York has quickly become the Greek capitol of the country, and upstate New York dairy farms ... benefited from that growth,” Schumer said. “So the USDA’s decision to include Greek yogurt, permanently, in their nationwide school lunch program is a nutritional benefit to our kids, an affordable option for local school boards and a boon to New York daily farmers and yogurt producers.”

After Schumer first petitioned the USDA to create the program, New York was among four states to participate in the Greek Yogurt Pilot Program in the fall of 2013. Also participating were Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee.

In that pilot program, states were permitted to order any quantity of high-protein yogurt – regarded as a meat alternative in the USDA’s school lunch program – they desired for delivery between September and November 2013. Orders for that time period totaled almost 200,000 pounds and $300,000.

New York is home to several Greek yogurt companies; Chobani and Upstate Niagara had been selected in the past to provide Greek yogurt to schools. Other producers include Alpina and Muller Quaker, which have plants in Batavia, as well as Fage.

In March 2014, the pilot program was expanded to eight other states: California, Iowa, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Mississippi.

Afterward, the USDA concluded there was high demand for Greek yogurt and that it should be offered nationwide, the senator said.

“This is [a] win, win, win that benefits our school kids, upstate daily farmers and our rapidly growing Greek yogurt industry,” Schumer said.