Sorry Pope Francis, 2013 Was the Year of Quinoa

National Journal

This year has seen tanking approval ratings for just about everybody in Washington, thanks to bungled policy initiatives, stalled legislation, and a government shutdown. But one player did have a good year.

It's not Pope Francis, or Chris Christie. It's quinoa, a highly nutritious, centuries-old grain, at least according to the United Nations.

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In February, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2013 the international year of quinoa, not for the grain's place in Western society as a healthy, even upscale ingredient that's tough to pronounce, but for its impact on food security around the world.

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Quinoa contains many essential amino acids and vitamins, and can grow in a variety of climates. Planting and cultivating quinoa in areas of extreme poverty eases hunger and malnutrition, the U.N. group explains, and could eventually give rise to a new crop industry.

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The price of quinoa, often called "the miracle grain of the Andes" for its origins, has tripled since 2006, The Guardianreported early this year. Its popularity in nations where the crop is not indigenous, like the United States, has pushed costs up enough so that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia can no longer afford it. Still, Peru and Bolivia are among the list of South American nations funding this year's promotional campaign of quinoa.

In the U.S., the concept of quinoa as a "super food" is at least a few years old. The grain's versatility, as well as its recent recognition as a food craze, will keep it on the world stage for years to come. 

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