Washington, DC - January 10, 2013 - Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Greek yogurt pilot program, which occurred in New York and three other states from September to November 2013, was a great success. Schumer in turn urged the USDA to expand this program to additional states in his pursuit of permanently adding this high-nutrition and protein-rich food to the USDA School Lunch Program. Schumer revealed today that in the 3 month pilot program, participating schools in New York, Tennessee, Idaho and Arizona consumed 200,000 pounds of Greek Yogurt, worth $300,000.
In July, Schumer announced that New York State would be a participant in the USDA Greek Yogurt Pilot Program that Schumer originally petitioned the USDA to create in June 2012. Schumer noted at the time that New York’s selection as a participant state is an excellent match; New York is home to some of the largest Greek yogurt and dairy producers. The Pilot Program is designed to test the cost-effectiveness of USDA purchasing Greek yogurt on behalf of schools operating the National School Lunch Program, and if deemed successful, could go nationwide. At the start of the pilot program, the USDA said it would evaluate the cost-effectiveness of its initial procurement by December 2013 to determine next steps for the pilot. Given the USDA’s confirmation that the first phase of the pilot is a success, Schumer is urging the USDA to expand to more states to further test shipping logistics and cost-effectiveness, which thus far have been promising.
“Clearly, New York students ate up the USDA Greek yogurt pilot program, and I am urging the USDA to continue this great work and add it to more states,” said Senator Schumer. “In only three months, select schools in New York, Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee consumed 200,000 pounds of Greek yogurt, which gives us a great taste of the potential for this pilot should it be expanded. The USDA has done great work thus far, and I hope they will continue bringing this protein-packed snack to more school lunch rooms.”
Schumer has long-fought to make New York the Greek yogurt capital of the United States, pushing for federal investments in production facilities and federal assistance to dairy farmers to increase milk production to meet the increased demand from Greek yogurt.
In January of 2013, Schumer announced that he successfully petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase the availability of New York-made Greek yogurt in school meal programs in New York State and potentially across the country. In a letter to Senator Schumer, the USDA committed to initiating a pilot program that is expected to increase the availability of Greek yogurt in schools across the country. Specifically, thanks to Schumer’s efforts, the USDA initiated this process, which will first increase school’s access to Greek Yogurt on a pilot basis.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) then released a request for information (RFI) on January 31st to gather information from potential vendors. Respondents indicated capacity to produce such yogurt in a variety of pack sizes and flavors. Based on that data, FNS selected four states to participate in the pilot. States were permitted to order any quantity of high protein yogurt they desired for delivery from September to November 2013 within the balance of their USDA foods entitlement.
On Monday, July 8th, USDA issued a solicitation to vendors to supply the states’ orders. Four states participated in the pilot from September to November 2013. Schumer is pushing for the program to expand in the hopes it can become a permanent part of the foods that USDA offers to purchase for schools USDA Foods List for schools nationwide.
Schumer’s efforts to place Greek yogurt in more school cafeterias will provide a boon for the largely New York-based Greek yogurt industry. In addition, because Greek yogurt requires more milk than regular yogurt, New York’s dairy farmers would also benefit from Senator Schumer’s plan.