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July 9, 2013

Feds invite yogurt makers to serve Chobani in schools

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — Area students could find yogurt made by Chobani on the cafeteria menu next school year, following a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to media releases from several federal legislators involved with the process. 

The agency chose New York as one of four states to participate in its Greek-yogurt pilot program. Tennessee, Idaho and Arizona will also be participating. 

On Monday, the USDA released a solicitation to purchase Greek yogurt for delivery to participating schools starting in the 2013-14 school year. A federal solicitation is an official request for proposals, bids or information. In this instance, the solicitation would allow companies such as Chobani to bid for the right to sell their products to school districts. 

According to a release from Sen. Charles Schumer, the state selection is an “excellent match.” It is the largest Greek yogurt producer, with companies like Chobani, and has many dairy producers. The program is designed to test the cost-effectiveness of purchasing Greek yogurt as part of the National School Lunch Program. 

Schumer noted he petitioned for the pilot program a year ago. 

“I am proud to see this pilot plan reach this final step, because it’s a boon for New York yogurt and dairy industries, and it’s beneficial for the health of our kids,” he said. 

New York companies including Chobani, Fage, Alpina and Muller Quaker have worked with Schumer on advancing the popularity and availability of Greek yogurt in New York and across the country.

Also noting the USDA decision were Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, and Rep. Richard Hanna, R- Utica, who said in a release that they have been working with the USDA and New York yogurt manufacturers to create the pilot program.

“I am proud to announce that New York state schools have been chosen for the Greek yogurt pilot program,” Gillibrand said. She is the first state senator on the Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “Our dairy industry is vital to New York state. This program will provide healthy meals to students and create jobs for our community.”

“I am pleased USDA has agreed to launch a Greek yogurt school meal pilot program right here in New York,” Hanna said. “This is a win for our students who will have access to this nutritious food at school,” while supporting local agriculture.