Schumer Successfully Petitioned For Greek Yogurt Pilot Program In June 2012 & Has Since Fought to Include Greek Yogurt in School Lunches.
Washington, DC - March 12, 2014 - Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will expand its already successful Greek yogurt pilot program to eight new states, in addition to New York and three other states that participated from September to November 2013. Schumer said that from September 2014 to June 2015, New York, Arizona, Idaho, Tennessee, California, Iowa, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Mississippi will partake in the pilot program. The contract will again be put out to bid for all Greek yogurt producers to compete.
Following news in January that participating schools had consumed 200,000 pounds and $300,000-worth of Greek yogurt, in the 3 month pilot, Schumer 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. Today’s news is a critical step in that effort.
“The proof is in the yogurt when it comes to the success of the USDA Greek Yogurt Pilot Program. I’m thrilled that there will be twelve states – again including New York - with protein-packed Greek Yogurt on the menu this Fall, and I applaud the U.S. Department of Agriculture for forging forward with this initiative, which is great for business and school children alike.”
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 2013, Schumer announced that he had 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.
In July 2013, 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 was a success, Schumer then urged the USDA to expand to more states to further test shipping logistics and cost-effectiveness, which thus far have been promising.
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.