(WBNG Binghamton) New York Senator Charles E. Schumer announced Monday that New York State will be a participant in the USDA Greek Yogurt Pilot Program that Schumer originally petitioned the USDA to create in June 2012.
According to a news release from Schumer's office:
The USDA has released a solicitation Monday, July 8th, to purchase Greek yogurt for delivery to participating schools in the upcoming School Year.
According to the USDA, schools in four states, New York, Tennessee, Idaho, and Arizona will be participating in the program.
Schumer noted 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.
Because yogurt is a highly perishable product, USDA is limiting the pilot at this time to these four states, which represent different regions of the country with varying proximity to yogurt manufacturers and will help test distribution through different warehousing models. The solicitation seeks both 4oz single serving containers of flavored yogurt as well as unflavored yogurt in 32oz containers to provide schools with a variety of ways of serving this product. USDA will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of its initial procurement by December 2013 to determine next steps for the pilot.
“Starting this school year, students across the state will be balancing New York-made Greek yogurt on their lunch trays. I am thrilled that New York schools will have a chance to participate in the first-ever Greek yogurt pilot program in September. Schools in New York, and the other three states participating in the pilot, will soon see that Greek yogurt is an affordable and nutritious high-protein option for their menus,” said Schumer. “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.”
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. New York companies Chobani, Fage, Alpina and Muller Quaker have all worked with Senator Schumer on advancing the popularity and availability of Greek yogurt in New York and across the country.
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. The four states orders for this time period total 199,800 pounds of yogurt.
On Monday, July 8th, USDA issued a solicitation to vendors to supply the states’ orders. Bids are due on July 22 and FSA expects to evaluate the bids and make awards by the end of July. If it is found successful in the four states selected, this could become a permanent part of the foods that USDA offers to purchase for schools USDA Foods List for schools nationwide.