American Pistachio Growers (APG) announced USDA’s plans to purchase more than six million pounds of pistachios for federal food nutrition assistance programs. The purchase coincides with the beginning of the 2011 pistachio harvest and follows the widely publicized 2010 bumper crop. The request to purchase the nuts was initiated by APG, marking the first USDA purchase of pistachios. Based on current wholesale pricing, the purchase represents approximately $24 million in new revenues to the pistachio industry.
“Our members are very pleased with the first purchase of pistachios by USDA,” said Jim Zion, APG Chairman. “American Pistachio Growers is a partner in MyPlate.gov and we appreciate the opportunity to further the goals of USDA to provide safe, nutritious food, while familiarizing more Americans with the nutritional benefits of pistachios.”
Each year, USDA purchases a variety of American-farmed foods for the USDA Foods Program, which includes the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. The provisions must meet strict quality standards and are generally required to be low in fat, sugar, and sodium.
Pistachios fared well in the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which encourage the consumption of more plant-based proteins vs. animal proteins. While often thought of as a snack food, pistachio nuts are a nutrition powerhouse packed with protein and nutrients while having the lowest amount of fat per serving among nuts. Not only that, but on a pound-for-pound basis, pistachios have more protein than cooked Greenland halibut, far more potassium than bananas, and triple the fiber of broccoli.
Pistachios came into commercial production in the 1970’s in the U.S., which now leads the world in production with 528,000,000 million pounds produced in 2010, followed by the country of Iran. American Pistachio Growers is a voluntary trade association representing members who are pistachio growers, processors, and industry partners in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. These states represent 100% of the domestic commercial pistachio production. APG pistachios are the “Official Snack” of USA Water Polo and Miss California.