After intense debate, New York Senate chooses yogurt as state snack

The New York state Senate spent 50 minutes on Tuesday debating a senator’s bill to designate yogurt as the state official snack. It passed, but not without some questions. A lot of questions. 

John Minchillo/AP
Right now, New Yorkers want a snack.

New Yorkers: Your state Senate is worried. Do you like yogurt? Is it OK with you if yogurt is the state’s official snack? Are you sure?

The New York state Senate spent 50 minutes on Tuesday debating a western New York senator’s bill to designate yogurt as the state official snack. The senate ultimately passed Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer’s bill, but not without wondering at length if tapping yogurt as the state snack was really the best way to serve New Yorkers, as opposed to giving the nod to another food.

“Yogurt is a healthy food that tastes great and is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium and magnesium, all nutrients that are an important part of a good diet,” reads the bill. “Yogurt is also an important economic driver across our state.”

“Both from a health standpoint and economic standpoint, yogurt is particularly suitable as the state snack,” it said.

Democratic senators had a lot of questions.

If a pretzel were dipped in yogurt, would the pretzel also be considered a state snack?

Would lactose intolerant New York residents feel left out, or even insulted?

Would the Senate be “offending other foods that are produced and popular in the state of New York”? What about the carrot cookie? Would this dim the spotlight on the state’s official muffin, the apple muffin?

Was Mr. Ranzenhofer maybe being a little too hasty about all this? Did the senate know enough about its constituents’ snacking preferences? Should there be a statewide poll?

Plus, is yogurt even really a snack, mused Sen. Gustavo Rivera.

Yes, said Ranzenhorfer, it is a snack.

Ranzenhorfer: “I mean, you have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then you have snacks. That’s the way I would define it, as a snack.”

Rivera: “What if I wake in the morning and I have a cup of yogurt for breakfast? I guess that would not be considered as a snack."

Ranzenhorfer: “That is a snack, time doesn't matter. You are eating the state snack of yogurt at breakfast."

Senator Rivera later suggested “kale chips.”

Several other states have state snacks, including North Carolina (boiled peanuts) and Utah (Jell-O), and states have designated all kinds of things as “official.” Some of the odder ones include: Utah’s state gun (the M1911 pistol) and Oklahoma’s state meal (fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas).

Right now, some Rhode Island legislators are having a tough time naming calamari with picked hot peppers as the state’s official appetizer. Naysayers have argued that the Senate should debate other things instead, including how to address the state’s 9 percent unemployment rate, the highest rate in the US.

Yogurt has a lot going for it as New York’s state snack. The Empire State has in recent years been on an epic quest to crown itself a yogurt empire, especially as Greek yogurt factories have boomed in upstate New York, turning some ailing, rural parts of upstate New York into proverbial lands of milk, if not honey.

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that New York had officially become “America’s Yogurt Capital,” beating out California by producing 692 million pounds of yogurt in 2012. Yogurt is so dear to New York that when Russia refused to ship 5,000 cups of Chobani Greek yogurt to the US Olympic team in Sochi, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D) of New York wrote directly to the Russian ambassador to plead the yogurt’s case.

So, at around 7 p.m., the Senate voted 52 to 8 in favor of yogurt. The bill is headed next to the State Assembly, and, if it passes, it will go to the governor’s desk.

But choosing official New York state foods has in the past not gone well. In 2011, New York senators sought to correct the state’s embarrassing lack of an official state vegetable, noting that the state had an official fruit (apple) and drink (milk), but had somehow neglected to name a vegetable.

One would-be botanist, a Democratic senator, said that the state’s vegetable should be the onion, of course. But not so fast, said a Republican senator: sweet corn is the obvious choice. The governor did not have an opinion. This remains unresolved.

Of course, the New York Senate is also still mulling over, among other things, a bill introduced four months ago that would require all police departments in the state to videotape interrogations in full. The state has had 23 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA evidence, according to the bill; in 10 of them, the innocent person falsely confessed to the alleged crime.

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