Yogurt in schools could mean more jobs for Idaho

“It’s a win, win, win,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. “A win for Idaho kids, jobs and the economy.”

Crapo was at Meridian’s Pioneer Elementary on Tuesday morning to celebrate a pilot program that puts yogurt on school lunch menus and supports a Twin Falls company that employs hundreds of Idahoans.

“It’s a good day for Idaho school children,” Crapo said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for Idaho.”

P1010034After a competitive bid process, the USDA selected Chobani as the national contractor to supply yogurt to four states — Arizona, New York, Tennessee and Idaho — in a two-month, pilot program.

Crapo read letters from the Idaho Congressional Delegation, and, working with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), convinced the USDA to add Greek yogurt as a non-mandatory addition to USDA school nutrition during a two-month pilot program. If the pilot is successful, the 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 bid to supply the four-state pilot project.

“Not only will Idaho dairy producers and workers benefit, but Idaho’s students will have access to a nutritious protein-filled option,” Crapo said.

The pilot program will deliver in October and November and all Idaho schools will have the ability to order strawberry, blueberry or vanilla yogurt. Two hundred thousand pounds of yogurt will be available and a distribution warehouse will receive deliveries every two weeks to help ensure the freshness of the product, which has about a 30-day shelf life.

The USDA will conduct a survey at the end of the pilot program to calculate if delivering yogurt nationwide is a smart choice. Kids have to like it.

“Hopefully, we’ll go nationwide in the very near future,” said Chobani’s Executive Vice President of Sales Kyle O’Brien, who flew into Idaho from North Carolina.

Also speaking at the press conference were State Superintendent Tom Luna and Meridian schools Superintendent Linda Clark. Clark said the 36,000 student in Idaho’s largest district will have yogurt as a lunch choice.

“We believe they like Greek yogurt and will chose it,” Clark said. “We are increasing healthy options for kids.”

Luna said: “I encourage every district to take part in this pilot program. 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.”

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