TWIN FALLS -- Chicken nuggets and Chobani yogurt, a common factor might soon put those two in the same category when it comes to school lunches. We're talking about protein and a goal by the Chobani company with a Twin Falls plant to get their product into schools everywhere.
Already the U.S. Department of Agriculture is entertaining the idea of getting Greek yogurt onto school lunch menus, and with the Twin Falls Chobani plant already making products geared at kids, they say Idaho's a great fit for a place to give it a try.
The Twin Falls Chobani plant is the largest yogurt factory in the world and Sen. Mike Crapo hopes yogurt from his state will soon be something kids grow up on by making it a school lunch option.
He's been pushing the idea with a senator from New York.
"Some time ago, Sen. Schumer and I encouraged the USDA to look at creating a special category for Greek yogurt because they don't have a category for that right now," Crapo said.
First, there will be a pilot program for the USDA to see if it's cost effective to add Greek yogurt to the choices schools have for protein options.
"Ultimately I think that can go nationwide as Greek yogurt becomes a staple part of the school nutrition program," Crapo said.
"We know with the higher protein content it'll be better for the kids, and we actually think it'll be very cost competitive as well," Chobani CFO Jim McConeghy said.
Chobani plans to use its kid-friendly and targeted products to get into schools, and expand the market, and possibly grow the Idaho factory and economy.
"Anything that we can do to increase the consumption of Greek yogurt would have a big impact on this plant," said McConeghy. "This plant is a significant portion of our production capability, and if we can expand the market, that will certainly benefit Twin Falls."
"Our dairy producers will be some of the major producers of the dairy products that will be used then to make the Chobani yogurt that could then move into the entire USDA program," Crapo said.
The pilot program to get Greek yogurt into schools will be in four states. Crapo hopes Idaho and New York will be picked. He says a pilot program would likely start in the fall and last a year.
If Greek yogurt is added to school lunch menu options, schools would still be deciding on a local level if they want to use it. It doesn't create any requirements to serve it.