"If USDA were to create a standard for Greek yogurt that recognizes it as a more protein dense food and creates a serving size that reflects its higher protein content, it could become easier for school lunch programs to incorporate it into their meals."
That’s what U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter written to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, advising him to revise federal School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to make Greek yogurt an affordable, high-protein option for school districts.
WKTV Channel 2 reported that Schumer’s suggestion comes in response to the current school meal programs, which consider Greek yogurt to be nutritionally the same as traditional yogurt, despite its higher protein content. Schumer’s push to create new guidelines for Greek yogurt would enable school districts to incorporate as a protein option in their menus.
"Grocery shelves across upstate New York and the country are filled to the brim with Greek yogurt, but unfortunately, despite their high protein and competitive cost, we can't say the same for New York school children and their school lunch and breakfast menus," Schumer told WKTV. "That is why I am launching a campaign to work with the USDA and local schools so that New York's meal programs can say they've 'Got Greek Yogurt.' With a stroke of a pen, Secretary Vilsack could provide healthier foods for New York's school children and an economic boost for yogurt makers and dairy farmers, two of the state's most important industries."
Current yogurt guidelines require all yogurt, including Greek style, to weigh 4 ounces in net weight to be considered as one serving of meat/meat alternative. Eight ounces is considered to be two servings. Schumer points that this single standard creates a serious issue for Greek yogurt, which is more nutritionally dense than traditional yogurt. Four ounces of Greek yogurt contain 9 grams of protein, compared to 8 ounces of regular yogurt with just 6 grams of protein.
Schumer believes that if the USDA creates a standard for Greek yogurt that recognizes it as a more protein-dense food and creates a serving size that reflects its higher protein count, it could be easier for school food programs to afford to incorporate it into their meals.
Greek yogurt requires three to four times more milk than traditional yogurt, making Schumer’s request a possible boon for the dairy industry in his state and across the nation.
"Providing Greek-style yogurt in our schools is a win-win-win that provides a healthy food for our kids, supports our family dairy farmers and boosts New York's upstate economy," Schumer said.