Pulse crops are cheap, and loaded with protein, fiber and other nutrients, Scholz said. Flours made from pulse crops can be added to breads, tortillas and pastas to enhance their nutritional value.
Mead High School near Spokane serves garbanzo beans, lentils and hummus as part of school meals. "They are a less expensive protein source so it stretches our dollars," said Kim Elkins, Mead School District nutrition director.
Cantwell said the growth of the chickpea market will also help bring more jobs to Washington state.
The state's pulse crop industry employs an estimated 5,000 people in processing, growing or moving the crops, Cantwell said. Eastern Washington has about 1,000 farm families and 22 processors working in pulse crops.