The USDA Foods program offers a wide variety of nutritious, 100 percent domestically produced food to help the nation’s schools feed our children and support U.S. agriculture. Each state participating in the National School Lunch Program annually receives a USDA Foods entitlement, which may be spent on any of the over 180 foods offered on the USDA Foods list. Last year, the Food and Nutrition Service added an additional product to that list through a pilot program to offer Greek-style (i.e., high-protein yogurt) to schools in Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee.
These states were able to order any quantity of Greek-style yogurt they chose for delivery from September to November 2013 within the balance of their USDA Foods entitlement. Not surprisingly, the overall response to the pilot was very positive. The states’ collective orders totaled 199,800 pounds of yogurt.
Because the Greek-style yogurt was popular on school food trays and interest in seeing the product offered through USDA Foods is high, USDA is expanding its pilot purchasing of Greek-style yogurt for the National School Lunch in School Year 2014-2015. Eight new states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont and Washington) as well as the four original, will now have access to this healthy option.
FNS has decided to continue the pilot program to observe and evaluate a full school year’s operations through a wider variety of distributions. These additional eight states represent a variety of distribution systems. This limited expansion allows USDA to continue to monitor feedback on the Greek-style yogurt and to share best practices for proper storage and distribution. This will help minimize any losses should USDA decide to offer it more widely in the future.
I look forward to hearing back from all the states this next year and to continuing to work with schools on offering our students the very best each and every day.