The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently working on a proposal that would use current milk resources for school to provide students with fresh yogurt. The proposal has the support of Dannon, the largest yogurt maker in the world.
Currently, the USDA runs a commodity foods program under which the federal government uses its ability to buy in vast bulk quantities in order to help schools buy commodities like fruits, vegetables, and meats at reduced prices. This is in accordance with several federal school meal programs, like the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. With certain foods, the school districts send their commodities to manufacturers for processing. This would be the case with milk commodities should the proposal be approved.
For the 2016-2017 school year, the USDA is considering including milk on its list of commodities available to school districts around the country. If the proposal is finalized, schools will be able to direct their share of milk to the making of Dannon yogurt. Under the program, Dannon would provide its products at a discount of up to 40 percent.
The USDA sees a number of potential benefits to this plan. The initiative would allow students to enjoy the nutritional benefits of dairy without the waste that accompanies regular milk. Unfortunately, a lot of kids throw regular milk away when offered to them in cartons. But they’ll gladly consume it if presented in a more attractive form, be it chocolate milk or yogurt.
Yogurt is a USDA-approved meat alternative. It’s a good source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Through its use in parfaits and smoothies, it serves as a great complement to fruits and grains. Presently, some 60 million pounds of yogurt are served in schools every year.
Basically, the system will work like a credit system. Districts would get access to specific milk “credits” according to their needs. They can either use this commodity allowance to purchase milk from their distributors, or they can dedicate it to yogurt-making, in which case they would buy the yogurt at a discount.
Dannon is naturally enthusiastic about the proposal, as it would mean more business for their company. Right now, Dannon leads the market in the United States and is looking for opportunities to continue expanding. Dannon, headquartered in New York, runs plants in Ohio, Utah, Texas, and Oregon. It already sells its products extensively to schools nationwide, but this proposal would permit a considerable expansion of its sales.
Under the program, schools would be able to purchase any of Dannon’s current yogurt products, such as traditional and Greek yogurt. Students would have a wide array of choices before them subject to the discretion of school administrators.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are details that remain to be ironed out, but the milk commodity proposal has the potential to go a long way in helping students obtain healthy food choices in a way that is financially bearable for schools.