Regina Gardner, Staff Writer
February 5, 2016
In an effort to combat global food insecurity, the 68th U.N. General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. “Pulses are annual leguminous crops that yield between one and 12 grains or seeds,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ IYP website. “Pulse crops such as lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas are a critical part of the general food basket.”
This campaign aims to enhance public awareness of the benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production and focuses on worldwide food security and nutrition.
“(Pulses) have a positive impact on the environment and this makes them a good choice for sustainable farming,” said Sustainability Coordinator Bronwyn Tucker. “They are also an excellent source for affordable protein, and this makes them a good option in combating food insecurity.”
These “super foods” are not only good for human consumption, they are a powerhouse for the soil.
“These plants are unique in that they have nitrogen- fixing bacteria within nodules in their root systems,” said Associate Professor of Biology Bryan Brendley. “They produce nitrogen compounds that help the plant to grow and compete with other plants. Then, when the plant dies, the fixed nitrogen is released and fertilizes the soil.”
The international effort is locally important.
An article published in 2015 by the Food Research Action Center states that North Carolina ranks eighth in the nation for food insecurity. It also reported that out of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, the Greensboro-High Point area ranked number one in food insecurity in 2014, with 30 percent of families struggling to buy food.
“The message of food insecurity needs to be addressed by taking more than one path and communicating the problem through many channels, multiple times,” said Steve Hayes, director of the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, to The Guilfordian.
“Out of 700 not-for-profit organizations in our area, only one-third of them address problems of the economically disadvantaged.”
In the past, pulses have been an economically necessary alternative as well as a sustainable one.“This campaign is simply returning to our cultural roots for people in the South” said Hayes. “Poor people from our area have historically eaten dried beans as a source of protein. Meat was just not an affordable option for most families and was not eaten with every meal.”
The IYP may bring renewed global attention to how people get their food.
“The food insecurity story needs to be told and this campaign is a good way to deliver that message,” said Brendley.