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Q&A — Idaho's Mike Crapo

The senator promotes Greek yogurt in schools

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Idaho\'s senior senator weighs in on a new plan to serve Greek yogurt in schools. - STEPHEN SCHLANGE
  • Stephen Schlange
  • Idaho\'s senior senator weighs in on a new plan to serve Greek yogurt in schools.

Sen. Mike Crapo has a dream: thick, creamy Idaho-made Greek yogurt on every school lunch tray in America.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering adding strained yogurt to school cafeteria menus nationwide — this after fresh fruit and veggies — and Crapo is hoping Idaho, home to Chobani’s Twin Falls plant, the largest Greek yogurt production facility in the world, will be one of four states selected for a USDA pilot program as early as next fall.

We caught up with the Republican senator for a few minutes last Friday, and while he sampled (and posed with) a cup of blueberry Chobani, we asked him about a yogurt-fueled economy, the perils of acid whey and his favorite flavors.

INLANDER: If Idaho is selected for the pilot program, what kind of economic impact do you think it will have on the state?

The first impact will be that Greek yogurt would be made available for utilization in the school nutrition programs, and that would increase the consumption, I’m sure. It’s a very high protein product and a very nutritious product for our kids. There’s carbohydrates, there’s fats and there’s protein. So that will increase the consumption of it, which will then necessarily increase the productions needs for our dairymen, and that ripples through the economy. So I believe it would have a financial impact, but I think the even bigger impact is the health impact for our kids and schools.

What, if any, pushback have you encountered regarding this plan? (Modern Farmer, for example, recently wrote about acid whey, an environmentally toxic byproduct of the Greek yogurt production process.)

I have not seen any pushback. In fact the only issue I’ve heard was the one you raised with me, which was with regard to the whey and when I checked back — and you would probably have to confirm this with the Chobani people — but they utilize the whey as I understand it in agriculture for consumption or application on the ground.

Are you a Greek yogurt gourmand yourself? What’s your favorite flavor?

I do eat Greek yogurt. In fact, I am learning to test each of the Chobani flavors and I think that they do a great job.

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