USDA Opens Bids for High-Protein Yogurt School Pilot

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency announced yesterday that it is accepting bids from processors to procure high-protein yogurt products for a new pilot program for schools. USDA will launch the pilot in New York, Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee, but yogurt manufacturers from any area of the country are invited to submit bids.

The pilot stems from a request last year by New York Senator Charles Schumer and other members of Congress for USDA to consider adding yogurt commonly marketed as Greek yogurt to the USDA Foods List.  This list contains more than 180 foods that USDA procures centrally and that state agencies can order with USDA food entitlement funds, including those used for the National School Lunch Program.

“This pilot program emphasizes the continued importance that USDA places on the value of dairy products in children’s diets,” said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president. “It will provide an excellent opportunity for IDFA members to innovate and offer more high-protein products to the school foodservice market.”

Current Standards Encourage Yogurt Consumption

The current school nutrition standards, which went into effect last year, encourage school menu planners to use high-protein foods that are low in sodium, like low-fat and fat-free yogurt to satisfy the meat and meat alternate component in meals. Four ounces (by weight) or one half cup (by volume) of plain or flavored, unsweetened or sweetened yogurt equals one ounce of the meat and meat alternate requirement. Schools are required, depending on grade level, to serve eight to 12 ounces of meat and meat alternates per week at lunch.

In preparation for pilot program’s launch, USDA developed a new Commercial Item Description (CID) for yogurt to serve as a purchasing specification for food commodities obtained for government feeding programs. IDFA, with assistance from members that make yogurt, provided USDA with input on the yogurt CID, which includes specifications for a wide variety of yogurts available in today’s commercial marketplace. The CID provides a definition for “high protein yogurt” that includes yogurt produced by either the “strained” or “not strained” manufacturing process.

Yogurt processors that are interested in bidding to supply high protein yogurt in four- and 32-ounce containers for the school pilot can find detailed information on the yogurt bid specifications, project description and vendor requirements and can submit bids electronically via USDA’s Web Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) system. This solicitation pertains only to the high-protein yogurt pilot and will not affect regular yogurt currently sold for use in the National School Lunch Program and National School Breakfast Program.

FDA Definition for High Protein

The Food and Drug Administration defines “high protein” in its nutrient claim regulations as food with 20 percent or more of the recommended daily amount or Daily Value (DV) of protein per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC). The DV for protein is 50 grams per day. A high-protein yogurt must have at least 10 grams of protein per RACC (225 grams of yogurt).  The increase in protein can be achieved by either adding higher protein ingredients permitted in the federal yogurt standard of identity or by straining the liquid (whey) portion from the yogurt.