Cantwell joins bipartisan coalition on legume lunches

Posted by JOHN STARK on October 31, 2013 

The spirit of bipartisanship has a pretty feeble pulse in our nation's capital these days, but Washington's Maria Cantwell is joining U.S. Senators on both sides of the aisle in an effort to do something about that.

Did you even know that "pulse" is the generic term for crops such as dry beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas? If you did know that, you probably also know that Washington and Idaho are major producers of pulse crops. Washington's Democratic Sens. Cantwell and Patty Murray are joining Idaho Republicans Mike Crapo and James Risch in supporting a five-year pilot program to promote the use of pulse crops in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition program. 

Cantwell's office reports:

"The Pulse Health Initiative and Pulse School Pilot Program were endorsed by a Senate vote earlier this year as part of the Senate Farm Bill. The new effort by Cantwell and Crapo seeks to ensure the pulse crop programs are included in any farm bill legislation approved by a conference committee of the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Currently, seventeen percent of adolescents aged 12-19 are obese which puts them at increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” the Senators said. “Pulse crops have the potential to reduce obesity and diabetes, and improve heart health because they are high in dietary fiber and low in fat.  More research is needed into how to incorporate pulse crops into a healthy diet, how to grow them more efficiently and how they benefit human health.

"Consumption of some pulse crops has increased rapidly across the nation. Retail sales of hummus – just $5 million in 1997 – are projected to increase to $250 million in 2013. During that same period of time in Washington state, a massive and rapid expansion of chickpea farming occurred. By 2012, there were nearly 80,000 acres of chickpeas in the state – up from less than 10,000 acres in 2000."

(Hummus is made from chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzos)

But if hummus replaces french fries on school lunch plates, how will Crapo and Risch explain that to the folks in a state where "Famous Potatoes" is stamped on license plates? (That is the slogan on the standard-issue plate, but Idahoans can pay extra for plates that include, among other things, "pilot's paradise," and "on the range.")


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