First, there was the Great New York State Vegetable Debate of 2011. And who could forget the ongoing tussle over the Herkimer Diamond and whether it should be named the official state mineral?
The back story is familiar. An elementary school class — in this case, a fourth-grade class from Byron-Bergen Elementary School in Genesee County — learns the basics of government, and comes up with a proposal for an official state symbol as a way to try and see government in action.
Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County, took up the class’ effort, and the state Senate yesterday debated a bill that would make yogurt New York’s official snack. The idea, Ranzenhofer said, came while the fourth graders were learning about government and while Russia was blocking a shipment of Chobani yogurt during the Winter Olympics.
“Through the course of their studies and what was happening in current events, they decided that this would be a great example of a state snack,” Ranzenhofer said. “It makes sense from a health standpoint in that yogurt contains many vital ingredients that are healthy. Specifically, yogurt tastes great, it’s a good source of protein, calcium, Vitamin B, calcium and magnesium, all nutrients that are part of a good and healthy diet.”
Yogurt, of course, is also a burgeoning industry in New York, and has been promoted heavily by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
But the debate surrounding the bill was anything but smooth sailing. Democratic senators came armed with questions — lots of them. Why yogurt? Why not pretzels, or the potato chip? Is ALL yogurt healthy? Why are we rushing into this?
And of course, what IS a snack, anyway?
“I think it’s self-explanatory,” Ranzenhofer said on the Senate floor when asked by Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, for his definition of a snack. “I mean, you have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then you have snacks. That’s the way I would define it, as a snack. And Senator Rivera, knowing how much time that you and I have spent in the lunch room, I think that we both know.”
Rivera wanted to know more.
“So a snack could be anything that is — to understand the definition, a snack is anything that is eaten in between the main meals of the day of breakfast or lunch or director?” Rivera asked. “Is that correct?”
“When you were giving your example, a snack is something that you eat at other meals, but the snack is the actual product,” Ranzenhofer replied.
After about 50 minutes of debate, the Senate ultimately passed the bill in a 52-8 vote. It now heads to the Assembly, where it is currently pending in committee.