Kyrene School District is one of several area districts participating in a program introducing protein-packed Greek yogurt to school lunches.

The United States Department of Agriculture has launched a new pilot program, which will add Greek yogurt to schools’ menus across Arizona.

Kyrene is eager to participate in the new program.

“The USDA Greek Yogurt Pilot Program is great for our students,” Paul Stanley, director of dining services for Kyrene, said in an email. “In addition to the nutritional benefits, it exposes our students to a healthier alternative to regular yogurt.”

Greek yogurt is high in essential nutrients and will make a positive change in school lunches. The new food option also offers a good source of calcium.

“Greek yogurt contains less sodium and carbohydrates and nearly twice the amount of protein compared to regular yogurt,” Stanley said.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, added: “It is a perfect way to make food that kids like to eat and builds strong bodies and strong bones.”

Greek yogurt’s main distinction from traditional yogurt is that it contains more protein and has a stronger taste.

“The increased protein helps our students feel full longer. Full students are happy students, and happy students are more prepared to learn once back in the classroom,” Stanley said. “Some kids enjoy Greek yogurt and some feel it is a bit too sour. We try to incorporate the more tangy yogurt flavors into dishes that offer natural sweetness from fresh fruit to balance the dish overall.”

Hayes has received positive feedback from students about Greek yogurt’s distinct taste.

“They do like its distinct taste when you mix that in with other foods or layer it in a parfait or mix it in a smoothie, they really enjoy it,” Hayes said.

Greek yogurt will not be served alone and will serve as part of meals.

“We are offering the yogurt on fresh fruit and yogurt plates with melons and grapes, in fruit and yogurt parfaits with blueberries, strawberries and other various fruit,” Stanley said.

The program is scheduled to start in early 2014, according to gogreekinschool.com.

• Matt Covert is a sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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