Want kids to eat veggies? Try Purple Asparagus

Written by: Melissa Graham

Imagine a class full of children swearing that they hate vegetables. Not hard to envision, right? Come back in an hour and watch them swarm the teacher’s desk for any leftovers from their veggie tasting. Believe that? I’ve witnessed this transformation on hundreds of occasions while teaching with Purple Asaparagus in the Chicago Public Schools.

Purple Asparagus educates children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Delicious Nutritious Adventures, our cornerstone education program, to thousands of parents and children throughout Chicago at schools, community centers, and farmers' markets. Families are invited to explore the foods we eat in an entirely different way. We teach about the farmers who grow the food, the places it comes from, what’s good about food grown close to the earth, and how to prepare healthy, delicious recipes.


Obesity is a national and Chicago crisis. Overweight children are at greater risk for diabetes, hypertension, increased risk of heart disease, and poor self-esteem. The issue is particularly prevalent in the underserved communities where good food is in short supply. Purple Asparagus is working to combat this issue by taking a new approach to healthy eating.

While teaching kids about healthy choices is a priority to Purple Asparagus, we’re sneaky about that message. Kids are more willing to try “healthy” foods when they’re not presented as such. A first grade boy will surely turn up his nose at a chickpea when told that it’s high in fiber and protein. Explain instead that its Italian name comes from its resemblance to a wart on a famous Roman’s face and he’ll climb all over his classmate’s to try it. Describe mint as a gum plant and a child’s resistance to the green leaves will melt. 

In the 2010-11 school year, we provided 250 hours of free educational programming to schools, community centers, farmer's markets, and health fairs in Chicago serving roughly 2,500 students in over 30 neighborhoods on a shoestring budget with an all volunteer staff. We partnered with Healthy Schools Campaign on the largest coordinated response to Michelle Obama's call to chefs, Chefs Move to Schools. Through this program, we trained over 175 chefs who visited close to 200 schools reaching 8,000 children.

How can you help and get more involved?

It couldn’t be a better week to ask this question. Purple Asparagus’ annual fundraiser, Corks & Crayons Benefit at Uncommon Ground on Sunday, August 28 from 3-7 p.m. Our family-friendly event brings foodies old and young together to celebrate the joys of family meals and healthy eating all for a good cause. Enjoy a mini farmers’ market sponsored by Harvest Moon Organics Farm, live music from Old Town School musicians, the Kohl Foundation Storybook Bus, as well as Truck Farm Chicago, a traveling mini-farm exhibit connecting kids to food and health.

If you cannot attend, please consider bidding on our online auction.  The list keeps getting better!  

Posted on August 24, 2011 at 8:58 AM