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North Star students eating pulse crops courtesy Columbia Grain

Editor's note: This version corrects the name of Columbia Grain International and its Balanced Bushel line of pulse crops.

Columbia Grain International recently made a donation of pulses to North Star Elementary so the school can offer healthier food options to students for World Pulses Day, which was earlier this month.

CGI Vice President of Pulses Tony Roelofs said the donation is part of a larger effort to give back to communities in Montana, Washington, Idaho and North Dakota where their company has facilities.

Roelofs said the company has facilities across the Hi-Line and they've been looking to make donations to local schools, food banks and other organizations.

He said products like pulses, lentils, chickpeas and pinto beans are valuable, lesser-known, elements people can work into their diets and he's hoping these donations not only help the people directly served by organizations like North Star, but help to raise awareness about the items.

The North Star donation came with an educational session about pulse farming in Montana for the students, kindergarten to fifth grade, and their potential benefits as part of their diet.

"Through this partnership and beyond, we are dedicated to giving back to our local Montana and other communities in which CGI operates," CEO and President of Columbia Grain Jeff Van Pevenage said in a press release sent to the Havre Daily News. " ... It's important to promote healthy eating habits as early in life as possible. Also, this is a great opportunity for us to support our farming families. A healthier future begins by bringing bountiful nutrition to our children and schools, right here at home."

Beyond this individual donation, he said, people are increasingly looking to add more plant-based protein into their diets and these crops are a good source for that, but not enough people know how to use them and they want that to change.

"They don't know how to make good meals out of them, they don't know how to cook with them, how to make good recipes," he said.

Roelofs said this is the second year of making these donations and they are looking to make a bigger impact this year than last.

He said Lindsey Wendland at the company's Rudyard location was instrumental in making the North Star donation happen and he wanted to thank her for her work, as well as those helping to continue the project.

He said the donations are being done in conjunction with the launch of their Balanced Bushel line of pulses, which aims to be a more direct connection between customers and producers.

These donations come as inflation continues to make life difficult for families across the U.S., and Roelofs said that was the big motivator for this project.

He said their company has seen transportation costs rise significantly, as well as a general rise in the cost of production, and they've had to raise their prices, which he realizes can be tough for customers, even as the rising prices become more normalized.

"It's kind of expected at this point, but that doesn't make it any easier," he said.

Roelofs said their products are generally a more affordable source of protein than what people typically buy, which he's hoping will raise demand, but even so, price increases are still an issue for their existing customer base, so they felt a project like this was appropriate.


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