The inclusion of Greek yogurt in the National School Lunch Program could save money, while providing students with a high-protein meal option, two leading US politicians have claimed
Greek yogurt typically contains around 10% protein, while levels in traditional yogurt usually stand at around 3% or 4%. Despite this, Greek yogurt is not differentiated from traditional yogurt under the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate nutrition guide or permitted as a high-protein option under the National School Lunch Program.
According to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Richard Hanna, Greek yogurt is packed with “healthy protein and should be available to our children in schools.”
In a statement directed at the USDA, Gillibrand and Hanna called for the introduction of Greek yogurt as a high-protein option on school lunch menus on a trial basis in the US capital of Greek yogurt production – New York State.
Better health, strengthened industry
“New York State is home to a strong and growing Greek yogurt industry,” said New York Senator Gillibrand.
Greek yogurt manufacturers Chobani and Fage have had an established, growing presence in New York State for a number of years.
Traditional yogurt production has also increased in the State. In 2012, Muller Quaker Dairy – a joint venture between PepsiCo and German dairy giant Theo Müller – broke ground a yogurt manufacturing plant in the state.
“And when we connect these businesses to lunchrooms across the country, we can give our children better access to healthy, nutritious food, while strengthening New York’s own dairy industry. It’s time to make this common sense change in our lunchrooms so our students can thrive in the classroom, and help grow our economy,” said Gillibrand.
New York Congressman Hanna added that with such a “burgeoning Greek yogurt industry” New York seems an ideal place to begin introduce Greek yogurt as a protein option in schools.
“By launching a pilot program in New York, schools could offer a high-protein, healthy lunch option for students at a considerably lower cost. The trial period would allow us to see the many benefits that could be gained by school districts, taxpayers, agriculture businesses and – most importantly – in the health of our children,” said Hanna.
Second update attempt
Gillibrand and Hanna have previously petitioned the USDA regarding the health benefits of Greek yogurt.
In September 2012, the Senator and the Congressman wrote to US Secretary for Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging him to update the National School Lunch Program to permit Greek yogurt as a high-protein option.
They also asked him to update the MyPlate nutrition guide to differentiate Greek yogurt from other traditional yogurts.
At the time, Chobani president and CEO Hamdi Ulakaya voiced his support for the USDA reclassification.
Despite their efforts, no changes have been made to the USDA’s official guidelines or the US National School Lunch Program to-date.