By Mark Weiner
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a contract to Chobani of Chenango County, N.Y., to supply four states with its Greek yogurt for a school lunch pilot program, according to members of New York’s congressional delegation.
Earlier this month, the USDA gave its permission for New York, Arizona, Idaho, and Tennessee to test Greek yogurt as a meat alternative in subsidized school lunches this school year. On July 29, Chobani was selected as the winning bidder to supply the yogurt.
In January, the USDA decided to allow Greek yogurt to be classified as a protein in the federal school lunch program. Greek yogurt has about twice the protein of regular yogurt.
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, had asked the USDA to make the change in its guidelines.
The value of the USDA contract was not immediately disclosed. Chobani has led the explosive growth of the Greek yogurt industry in upstate New York, where companies control about 70 percent of the $6 billion-per-year Greek yogurt industry.
The USDA pilot program will test the cost-effectiveness of Greek yogurt in school lunches from September through December. If successful, Greek yogurt could be included on the USDA Foods List for schools nationwide.