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October 2011 Newsletter 



It was a busy summer here at Purple Asparagus. From our 7th annual Corks & Crayons fundraiser to hosting a friendraiser at The Signature Room at the 95th to giving demonstrations at Green City Market and Taste of Chicago, we had lots of fun during the sizzling summer months.


But that doesn't mean we aren't eager to welcome the slower pace of fall. The smell of maple syrup, mulling spices and pumpkin everything make always for some yummy back-to-school treats. During the last 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 Chicago neighborhoods. We are eager to build on those successes to reach even more Chicago children this school year.

While we enjoy the crunching leaves, simmering stews and slower pace of life, we wanted to share with you some recent news and upcoming events. Hope to see you soon!


Melissa Graham

Head Spear, Purple Asparagus


Fun for All: Corks & Crayons 2011


Held annually at the end of August, Corks & Crayons is Purple Asparagus' signature fundraising event.  This year's gathering marked the event's seventh year and was the most successful to date as a record number of supporters came out on a gorgeous afternoon.  While the kids had a blast with the magician,

Truck Farm, StoryBus, and other activities, the adults enjoyed delicious food and spirits, the organic rooftop garden, music from the Old Town School of Folk Music, the farmers market, and of course, an amazing silent auction.


We would like to thank our event sponsors and donors without whom this special evening would no't have been possible.  And for everyone that attended the event, made a donation, or purchased an item on our silent auction, thank you!  It was with your generous support that we raised a record amount of money to pursue our mission.  Special thanks go to our event co-chairs, Stephen Landfear, Sara Oberg and Victoria Rivkina, and to all of the host committee.


We look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Set Your DVR 

Food Day

On October 18th, Head Spear Melissa Graham will be appearing on WLS channel 7 to promote Food Day, which is on October 24. Food Day, which is modeled after Earth Day, is an initiative to inspire the nation to improve their diets, focus on food policy, expand access to nutritious and healthy foods, support fair working conditions for food and farm workers and support sustainable agriculture which will in turn protect our environment.

For more information about events going on around Chicago, visit the Food Day site.

A Good Spear

Jill HoukWe always stress to our volunteers you don't have to be a professional to participate with Purple Asparagus, but every once in a while we get lucky and snag a chef with an amazing track record in the kitchen. 


Jill Houk, a volunteer in the Delicious Nutritious Adventures program since September 2010, is a professional chef, consultant and consumer recipe writer for clients like Sara Lee and Applegate Farms. She has also appeared on Good Morning America and many of the local Chicago news stations.


After years of around-the-clock work at her catering company, Jill found herself wanting to spent more time with her 12-year old son while still sharing her talents in the food world. She made the decision to become a part-time consultant in 2010. With some extra time on her hands, she linked up with Purple Asparagus.


Jill has volunteered with DeWitt Clinton Elementary School in West Rogers Park, where she has taught a variety of age groups along with their parents in an after-school program. As part of the cranberry curriculum, they used dried cranberries instead of raisins on ants on a log, and one student's mother watched in amazement as her daughter ate celery for the first time.


Jill has also volunteered at Budlong Elementary School in Lincoln Square, teaching elementary students during the school day. She loved some of the "adorable" descriptions some of the little ones gave their food- for example, rosemary tasted like "a Christmas tree" according to one girl - and was impressed by how positively and openly the students were able to talk about the new foods they tasted.


"What's been gratifying to me is see a relatively uncomplicated organization with a really clear vision achieve its goals," said Jill. "The fact that there is so much interest in getting kids, especially in underserved communities, access and interest in good, healthy, seasonal, local foods, it's been amazing to watch."


Start 'Em Young
 Good habits can last a lifetime. The Chicago Department of Public Health is taking action that will require more physical activity and less screen time for preschool-aged children.


The campaign, which kicks off in November, asks preschool and daycare centers to have young children spend less time in front of a computer or television screen and more time engaging in recess or physical activity. Reduced-fat milk and natural juices will also be required at snack time to improve nutrition.


Twenty-two percent of children in Chicago are overweight before they enter school, according to the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children.


Read more about the new initiative here.

Bringing Delicious Nutritious Adventures to Your Kitchen
Do you believe in family dinner? We sure do. Click here for a delicious, simple family meal perfect for early Autumn. Tell us that you believe in the power of the family dinner and you can win one of two books celebrating the family table.
What's Up?
What: Crop Mob to Spence Farm

Where: Spence Farm. Trip departs from City Provisions Deli @ 1818 W. Wilson Ave. in Chicago

When: Sunday, October 16; 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
How Much:


Join Spence Farm for their second annual Crop Mob to Spence Farm! You'll be joining other Chicago area residents who are committed to a sustainable food supply. We'll be taking a bus from Chicago to Spence Farm 100 miles south of Chicago to assist them with harvesting organic farm produce and with fall clean-up chores around the farm. Spence Farm supplies leading restaurants in Chicago like Frontera Grill and Blackbird with specialty produce and its famous Iroquois corn. Kids welcome.


Purchase tickets and learn more at


What: Green Room Session on Sustainable Food at Uncommon Ground
Uncommon Ground 1401 W. Devon Ave.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
How Much:
Free. Featured eco-cocktails featuring Rain organic vodka and seasonal ingredients are $6 each.


Purple Asparagus will be a featured guest at this eco-awareness event, which features local environmental organizations and free appetizers featuring the product of a local farmer or producer.  Other organizations represented include Mercy for Animals, Green Chicago Restaurant Coop, Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water and the Yellow Tractor Program.


What: Pick Me an Apple: Live Stream with Melissa Graham
Kenmore Studio --
Friday, November 4, 2011, 7-7:30 p.m.
How Much:


Purple Aspargus' Head Spear Melissa Graham will be doing a live demonstration of what to do with the fruits of your apple picking labor with her son at Kenmore Studio. You can watch any demonstration at the Kenmore Live Studio by liking it on Facebook. Come to studio for a chance to win cool prizes and to support Purple Asparagus.


What: Delicious Nutritious Adventures: Thanksgiving
Gompers Park Fieldhouse, 4222 W. Foster Ave.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 6:30pm - 7:30pm
How Much:
$25 per adult in advance (with admission for two children included) or $35 at the door

Purple Asparagus, Grow with Gompers, and Swedish Covenant Hospital invite you and your
family for an interactive cooking demonstration. Have fun preparing three simple, healthy
dishes and take home recipes that are perfect for any celebration. A portion of the
proceeds raised will help fund the renovation of the Gompers Park playground as well as
continued family nutrition education by Purple Asparagus.
 Learn more at  


What:  From Trash to Table: Transforming Leftovers into Delicious Dishes
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 2430 N. Cannon Dr.
Friday, November 25, 2011, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
How Much:
Free with museum admission


Watch and learn as Chef Jill Houk shows you how to transform your Thanksgiving leftovers into delicious new meals. 

Looking for A Few Good Spears
As always, if you would like to volunteer with Purple Asparagus or would like to contribute your support for our important programming in other ways, please email us at or call us at 773-991-1920.


Right now, we're looking for volunteers to help us in the following areas:

curriculum development, website maintence, resource development, and with our Delicious Nutritious Adventures program.

 Thanks again for your continued support.
Special thanks go to Erin Sarris of for her assistance with this newsletter.

Educating children, families and the community about eating that's good for the body and the planet. Bringing nutrious, delicious adventures to you!
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