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New York Politicians urging the federal government to include Greek yogurt in the national school lunch program have taken a big step forward.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer announced he has secured commitment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring New York-made Greek yogurt to school meal programs in 2013 as part of a pilot program.

A news release from Schumer's office details more about the agreement:

In the coming weeks, USDA will issue a Request for Information to seek information from potential yogurt vendors and producers on their ability to supply strained yogurt, including types and quantities available and information on pricing. Second, USDA will use this information to gauge interest from New York State and other state school boards, in participating in a pilot to use USDA entitlement dollars toward acquiring this product. If there is interest, USDA would issue a solicitation for the product and allow vendors to compete for the opportunity to provide strained yogurt to the interested state. Schumer noted that the New York School Boards Association are already supportive of this pilot program. USDA expects to complete this process so that deliveries of strained yogurt could begin as early as April 2013.

Schumer further explained the process for the expected pilot program to get Greek yogurt into schools. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) purchases USDA foods for schools by inviting vendors and producers – like Chobani, Fage or Alpina – to participate in a competitive bid system. Before contracts are awarded, AMS and FSA issue and analyze “invitations for bid" that outline specification requirements for each product. USDA has announced that on a pilot basis, FNS would make Greek yogurt available as one of the USDA Foods, which schools can order using their USDA foods entailment to test the demand for Greek yogurt. AMS and FSA will have to develop specifications for Greek yogurt. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will petition and select a state, such as New York to participate in this pilot purchasing program. At the conclusion of the pilot, Greek yogurt could permanently be added as a protein to USDA’s Foods list eligible for purchase with food entitlements across the country. 

 

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