Upstate New York's Chobani has been chosen by the USDA to provide Greek yogurt for a school lunch pilot program being launched in seven states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi and New York, this fall.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer referred to the contract as a "major win" for Upstate New York, reports Robert Harding for The Auburn Citizen.
"I commend USDA for selecting Chobani and Upstate Niagara and look forward to the rave reviews I know we will get from students across the country who will now be able to enjoy these great upstate New York products," Schumer said in a statement.
The testing for the program began last fall in four states when Chobani was offered at schools as an option for children between September and November. By the end of the test, children had consumed 200,000 pounds of the yogurt, totaling more than $300,000, according to Mark Weiner for Syracuse.com. The testing went so well that the USDA decided to include eight more states.
Chobani, which started in New Berlin, New York, recorded $1 billion in sales last year, skyrocketing the company to become the number one supplier of Greek yogurt in the US. The company also has a plant in Twin Falls, Idaho.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke highly of the health benefits of Greek yogurt, which holds enough protein to be considered a meat alternative, as it contains twice as much protein as regular yogurt.
"This is great news. Greek yogurt like Chobani and Upstate Niagara is packed with healthy protein that our schoolchildren deserve access to in their school lunches," 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."
Schumer and Gillibrand worked with Congressman Richard Hanna to lobby the USDA in an effort to include greek yogurt in school lunch services across the country. They are major supporters of New York's participation in the program.
"This is another tremendous opportunity for Chobani, for our state's growing Greek yogurt industry, and for the hardworking Upstate dairy farmers who support it," Rep. Richard Hanna said.
The USDA will consider bids for the second round of the program, which will run through the 2014-2015 school year, according to Time Warner Cable News.
Upstate Niagara Cooperative will also participate in the program, serving 32-oz. cups of vanilla Greek yogurt to schools in Arizona. The testing comes as many schools are struggling to maintain previous standards for healthy school lunches put forth by First Lady Michelle Obama's in 2010, with schools getting permission to opt out of the program based on cost and high amounts of wasted food.