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Going Greek: Crapo touts yogurt pilot project

Greek yogurt will be on the menu at schools in Idaho and three other states this year — and political and industry officials will talk up the pilot project Tuesday in Meridian.

Mike Crapo
Sen. Mike Crapo

Under the pilot program, Twin Falls-based Chobani will provide Greek yogurt to schools in Idaho, New York, Tennessee and Arizona. Supporters hope the U.S. Department of Agriculture will expand the program nationally.

“The addition of Idaho-produced Greek yogurt to school lunch menus is a win-win for Idaho,” Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said in a news release Thursday. “Not only will Idaho dairy producers and workers benefit, but Idaho’s students will have access to a nutritious protein-filled option.”

Supporters will discuss the pilot program Tuesday morning at a news conference at Meridian’s Pioneer Elementary School.

In the meantime, here’s the Crapo news release:

Idaho’s participation in a historic change in the nation’s school nutrition program will be discussed by federal, state, local and industry leaders during a news conference on Tuesday, Aug. 13. Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Meridian Joint School District No. 2 Superintendent Dr. Linda Clark, Chobani’s Executive Vice President of Sales Kyle O’Brien, the United Dairymen of Idaho and Canyon County dairy producer Bernie Teunissen, among others, will lead a briefing at Pioneer School of the Arts Elementary, beginning at 10 a.m. For the first time, popular Greek yogurt will be available as a protein addition to school menus. Pioneer is a year-round school and participates in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program.

Crapo led letters from the Idaho congressional delegation, and, working with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others, convinced the USDA to add Greek yogurt as a non-mandatory addition to USDA school nutrition programs for the 2013-14 calendar school years. If the pilot program involving Idaho, New York, Tennessee and Arizona is successful, USDA may expand the Greek yogurt offerings to all 50 states. Chobani, with the world’s largest Greek yogurt production facility employing more than 600 people in Twin Falls, won the competitive bid to supply the four-state pilot project.

“The addition of Idaho-produced Greek yogurt to school lunch menus is a win-win for Idaho,” Crapo said. “Not only will Idaho dairy producers and workers benefit, but Idaho’s students will have access to a nutritious protein-filled option.”

“We know students perform better academically when they eat healthy, nutritious meals. This will be a great way to showcase how Idaho is taking the lead in working to get more nutritious foods, including those produced right here in Idaho, into the hands of Idaho students,” Superintendent Luna said.

“We believe in supporting our local communities, which includes working tirelessly to provide access to simple, delicious and nutritious food to everyone, especially kids. With this USDA pilot program, we are one step closer to achieving that goal,” said Kyle O’Brien, executive vice president of sales for Chobani. “As the exclusive manufacturer chosen for this pilot, we are thrilled to be able to offer our authentic strained Greek Yogurt to K-12 schools right here in Idaho.”

“Idaho’s dairy farm families have long been committed to improving the health of our students by providing fresh, wholesome dairy foods to school meal programs,” said Karianne Fallow, CEO of the United Dairymen of Idaho. “This pilot project represents yet another way that children can choose healthy and delicious options during the school day.”

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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