Students in four school divisions within the Saskatoon Health Region were learning about a superfood that has been around for centuries and is good for both their health and the environment on May 5.

Pulses, which include dried beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, have been grown since 7,000 B.C. Regular consumption of pulses may help with weight management, reduce serum cholesterol and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Pulse crops are beneficial for soil fertility and can help extend the life of farmland.

The United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulse. To celebrate, 5,000 elementary school students in the Saskatoon Public School, Greater Saskatoon Catholic School, Prairie Spirit and Horizon School Divisions are participating in a Health Promoting Schools (HPS) program. The program, delivered in partnership with Agriculture in the Classroom, includes a school-wide celebration meal featuring pulses, lesson plans for teachers, and classroom presentations about the important role pulses play in individual health, food security and environmental sustainability. Each student will also receive a bag of lentils and a family-friendly recipe.

“Healthy food environments are a key component of Health Promoting Schools. We are thrilled to work with community partners to provide our schools with a healthy and sustainable food option with support from Saskatchewan Pulse Growers,” said Anita Verlangen, HPS site coordinator.

The program has been made possible through generous funding from Saskatchewan Pulse Growers.

The International Year of the Pulse is a unique opportunity for Saskatoon and area students to learn more about the role Saskatchewan plays in local and global food security.

“We hope that this program provides a platform for schools to begin incorporating pulses into their nutrition programs,” said Agriculture in the Classroom Executive Director Sara Shymko.

Students at Mayfair School, one of 20 participating schools, enjoy a lunch of pulses as part of the school’s introduction to the International Year of the Pulse.

Students at Mayfair School, one of 20 participating schools, enjoy a lunch of pulses as part of the school’s introduction to the International Year of the Pulse.

A lunch was held at Mayfair School, one of 20 participating schools, as part of the school’s introduction to the International Year of the Pulse. Similar lunches will occur in participating schools in May and June.

The Health Promoting Schools Program is a partnership between Saskatoon Health Region and the four Saskatoon and area school divisions. Agriculture in the Classroom is a registered charity with a mission to connect kids and agriculture through innovative, curriculum-based programs and resources.

Accountable to and funded by growers, the strategic direction of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers is guided by a seven member, grower-elected Board of Directors. Their mission is to provide leadership and create opportunities for profitable growth for the Saskatchewan pulse industry.