In a statement sent to DairyReporter.com yesterday, the USDA confirmed that it has issued a “solicitation to vendors” to supply high-protein yogurt on a limited basis to schools participating in the National School Lunch Program in the four states.
Through the solicitation, which was posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the USDA is seeking bids to supply both four ounce (oz) single serving containers of flavoured high-protein yogurt and unflavored high-protein yogurt in 32oz containers.
This will “provide schools with a variety of ways of serving this product,” said the USDA statement.
Interested vendors have until 22 July 2013 to submit their bids.
Support ability to offer “nutritious protein”
The USDA confirmed earlier this year that it was considering the inclusion of Greek yogurt on the National School Lunch Program following pressure from New York senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman Richard Hanna.
Rather than opting for a nationwide trial, the USDA has pinpointed New York, Idaho (which are both home to Chobani), Arizona, and Tennessee as suitable states to launch the Greek Yogurt Pilot Program.
“These states represent different regions of the country with varying proximity to yogurt manufacturers and will help test distribution through different warehousing models,” the USDA said.
It hopes to have the Greek Yogurt Pilot Program in place in time for the start of the new school year. If deemed cost-effective, the pilot could be expanded to other states, the USDA added.
“USDA will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of its initial procurement by December 2013 to determine next steps for the pilot,” said the USDA statement.
Decision will “provide a boon” for industry
Commenting on the USDA announcement, Senator Schumer said that the decision trial Greek yogurt in the National School Lunch Program will “provide a boon” for New York, which is home to Greek yogurt manufacturers Chobani, Fage, Alpina, and Muller Quaker Dairy.
“I am proud to see this pilot plan reach this final step, because it’s a boon for New York yogurt and dairy industries, and it’s beneficial to the health of our kids,” said Schumer, adding that milk farmers in the state also look set to benefit.
Idaho has also welcomed the USDA announcement. According to Idaho senator Mike Crapo, the state is “ideal to serve as part of this pilot project.”
“I commend the USDA for choosing to implement this pilot program for Greek yogurt in Idaho schools,” he said. “Greek yogurt is one of the country’s fastest growing industries, and I hope USDA will continue the important process of making this healthy food option increasing available to young Americans.”