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USDA denies Greek yogurt school pilot expansion claims

By Mark Astley+

13-Jan-2014
Last updated on 14-Jan-2014 at 09:20 GMT

USDA denies Greek yogurt school pilot expansion claims

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rubbished premature claims by Chobani, a Senator and a Congressman that it has approved an expansion of the National School Lunch Program's Greek yogurt pilot program.

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, a USDA spokesperson denied suggestions made by US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Representative Richard Hanna, and Chobani, that the trial would be extended to four additional states.

The pilot program, which ran from September 2013 to November 2013, saw the USDA add high-protein, low-fat Greek yogurt to the National School Lunch Program in New York, Idaho, Arizona, and Tennessee.

In a joint statement published on 9 January, Gillibrand and Hanna applauded the USDA for its decision “to continue and expand this highly successful program to four additional states during the next school year.”

A USDA spokesperson said, however, that a decision on the future of the Greek yogurt trial has yet to be made.

“We received positive feedback from schools in the pilot states,” said the USDA spokesperson, “and we are currently evaluating options for the future.”

“Couldn’t begin to speculate”

In a statement also published on 9 January, New York-based Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani prematurely congratulated the USDA “for its decision to expand the pilot program to four more states across the country.”

It added that the decision “confirms the success of the pilot program.”

Commenting, Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani, said: “We’re thrilled at the success of the USDA pilot program and today’s announcement to expand to even more states.”

When asked, the USDA spokesperson was unable to identify the origins of expansion claims made by Chobani, Hanna, and Gillibrand.

“I couldn’t begin to speculate,” said the USDA spokesperson.

200,000 pounds served

The USDA confirmed last year that it would trial the inclusion of Greek yogurt on the National School Lunch Program, following pressure from Gillibrand, Hanna and New York Senator Charles Schumer.

In July 2013, it began inviting bids from vendors to supply the trial.

New York-based Greek yogurt giant, Chobani, was selected as product of choice for the Greek yogurt pilot program, after successfully undercutting bids from a number of rival Greek yogurt manufacturers.

According to Chobani, more than 200,000 pounds of Chobani have been served to students across New York, Idaho, Arizona, and Tennessee since the trial began.

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