Cuomo made the statement alongside the publication of a letter from New York State agriculture commissioner, Darrel Aubertine, to US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. In the letter, Aubertine claimed that New York was “ready, willing and able” to run a program to pilot Greek yogurt in schools.
In January 2013, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that it was considering the inclusion of Greek yogurt in the National School Lunch Program following months of pressure by New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and New York Congressman Richard Hanna.
It also invited applications to take part in a pilot scheme.
“As the nation’s leader in Greek yogurt production, New York is the natural fit to be selected to implement this pilot program,” said Cuomo.
“Our state government is partnering with the private sector to bring down barriers to business growth, and the results are showing in New York’s tremendous yogurt boom. New York State is eager to demonstrate that serving delicious Greek Yogurt in our cafeterias will both improve the health of our children while helping our schools save money – a real win-win,” he added.
“Strong desire to participate”
In his letter to USDA chief, Tom Vilsack, Aubertine expressed New York’s “strong desire” to participate in the pilot scheme - citing the state's flourishing Greek yogurt industry as one reason for the USDA to support its interest in the scheme.
“With the proven leadership of Governor Cuomo, our schools, yogurt manufacturers, and government agencies are ready, willing and able to assist you in running a healthy and affordable pilot program that could serve as a model for other states to emulate,” said the letter.
“Most of the increase in yogurt production is attributable to the introduction and production of strained Greek yogurt as well as a recently improved dairy business climate spearheaded by Governor Cuomo,” said Aubertine.
“New York is leading the nation in the production of strained Greek yogurt with plants such as Chobani, Fage, Alpina and Muller Quaker calling our State home.”
“One step in the right direction….”
Aubertine also encouraged the USDA to amend current protein crediting standards to better reflect the nutritional value of Greek yogurt.
“Strained Greek yogurt offers greater nutritional benefits than unstrained yogurt with less sugar, carbohydrates, sodium and lactose, as well as an increase in protein per ounce. This pilot program is one step in the right direction for recognising these nutritional differences,” said the letter.
“Because Greek yogurt provides twice the protein than unstrained yogurt provides, I respectfully urge USDA as part of this pilot program to recognise its higher protein content by amending its crediting standards.”