Chobani selected for school meal test

by Monica Watrous
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NEW BERLIN, N.Y. — In a competitive bidding process, Chobani was selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the Greek yogurt brand to be served in K-12 school cafeterias as part of a pilot program.

The pilot, which launches this fall and includes schools in New York, Idaho, Arizona and Tennessee, will evaluate whether Greek yogurt is a healthy and cost-effective protein option for students. The U.S.D.A. is considering whether to add the product to its Foods List, a list of 180 foods that state agencies may buy with U.S.D.A. food entitlement money, and will determine next steps for the pilot by December.

With a rate of $1.40 per lb of yogurt, Chobani offered the lowest price among other bidders, which included Origin Foods, North Carolina; Upstate Farms, New York; Alpina, New York; and Commonwealth Dairy, Vermont. The company will supply a total of 199,800 lbs of yogurt to schools during the trial period, according to the U.S.D.A. The contract includes 4-oz single serving cups of flavored yogurt as well as 32-oz containers of plain yogurt so schools may have various options for serving the product.

“We strongly believe that everyone, especially kids, should have access to simple, delicious, nourishing foods, so we are thrilled to bring our authentic strained Greek yogurt to K-12 schools as part of the U.S.D.A.’s pilot program,” said Nicki Briggs, chief communications officer for Chobani.

Last year, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Representative Richard Hanna, both of New York, submitted a letter to the U.S.D.A. to reclassify Greek yogurt as a source of protein under the agency’s guidelines, so that the product would become eligible for inclusion as a source of protein in the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs. Other classified proteins include meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, processed soy products and seafood.

In the letter to the U.S.D.A., Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Hanna urged the Secretary of Agriculture to update the agency’s MyPlate nutrition guidelines to reflect the health benefits of Greek yogurt. They asserted that Greek yogurt should be permitted as an affordable, high protein option under the National School Lunch Program. They also argued that the inclusion of Greek yogurt in the National School Lunch Program would save school systems money while purchasing meals for students.

The U.S.D.A. in January agreed to initiate the trial program and in June finalized the first commercial item description for Greek yogurt to differentiate it from other types of yogurt.

“Greek yogurt like Chobani is packed with healthy protein that our schoolchildren deserve access to in their school lunches,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “New York State is home to a strong and growing Greek yogurt industry. And when we connect Chobani to lunchrooms across the state and across the country, we can give our children better access to healthy, nutritious food, while strengthening New York’s own dairy industry. I am pleased with the U.S.D.A.’s selection and look forward to building on this promising initiative.”
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