Purple Asparagus Newsletter
April 2012

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Veggie-growing season is here, and the significance is not lost on us at Purple Asparagus - it's so inspiring to watch kids get excited about fresh fruits and vegetables just as they start to come into season.


Spring is a time of change and growth, and at Purple Asparagus we've enjoyed more than our fair share of both since the year began. As an organization, we've racked up a handful of new awards and accolades - both in the Chicagoland area and nationally - and we hope you're as excited as we are about the positive publicity.


As we reflect on change, which plays such a prominent role in springtime, it's only natural to look back at how Purple Asparagus has evolved. In the past seven years, we've progressed from a one-woman show to an organization full of dedicated and passionate volunteers. An organization that has moved from a single kitchen into our first "real" office at the Green Exchange. And an organization that, through your hard work and support, wins awards and garners media attention month after month. There's no better time than spring to embrace change and the excitement that goes along with it.


This month, with spring fever in the air, we're eager to share some new ways you can support us - even through something as simple as your everyday grocery shopping. We also wanted to pass along some recent news and upcoming events. Hope to see you soon!  


Melissa Graham
Head Spear, Purple Asparagus


We haven't even hit the halfway mark in 2012, and we've already received a handful of very prestigious recognitions.

IACP: The International Association of Culinary Professionals, a trade organization for those in the food and beverage industry, has named Purple Asparagus' Melissa Graham as Culinary Youth Advocate of 2012. We are proud and humbled to have received this award, which honors extraordinary contributions and commitments to the culinary field. The award was accepted at the 34th Annual IACP Awards during a gala event ceremony at the Times Center in New York City.

School Nurse News: We were quite tickled to see Head Spear Melissa Graham's face on the cover of this month's School Nurse News.  Check out this link for her article on tips for getting your kids into the kitchen and excited about great food. 

Chicago Botanic Garden: Th Chicago Botanic Garden has asked Melissa to be the keynote speaker for their school gardening conference in June. Look for more information about this event in the next Farm Basket.


Food Matters Moms for Antibiotic Awareness 

Did you know that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to food animals, often non-therapeutically to promote growth and to compensate for the effects of unsanitary and overcrowded conditions?


Head Spear Melissa Graham will be attending a meeting in Washington D.C. to fight back against the overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry. "Supermoms and Superbugs" will be a summit of 25 moms, White House administrators and members of Congress to discuss the dangers of overusing antibiotics.


This day of advocacy, taking place on May 15th, will take place in conjunction with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Even if you will not be in attendance in Washington D.C., consider participating in a virtual advocacy day on May 15h. Visit the Pew's site for information about how to get involved - no trains, planes or automobiles required, just an Internet connection. 

Donor Spotlight  Whole Foods
Whole Foods


The next time the cashier at Whole Foods asks if you'd like to donate your 10-cent credit for bringing your own shopping bags, your contribution will benefit Purple Asparagus!


Whole Foods Market Chicago has partnered with Purple Asparagus through its "One Dime at a Time" program, which donates 10 cents each time a shopper brings his or her own bag instead of using the store's brown paper sacks.


Purple Asparagus was selected as one of four beneficiaries for 2012, and will receive 100% of the proceeds from April 1st until June 30th. Past Whole Foods' beneficiaries have received tens of thousands of dollars, ranging from $12,000 up to $30,000 for bag credits during the holiday season.


"We saw a need because Purple Asparagus had a huge wait list due to Melissa's wonderful connections and wonderful program that was already in place," said Jesse Mraz, associate team leader at Whole Foods Market for the Chicago metro marketing team. "The One Dime at a Time program is a great way to get our customers involved and give them a way to donate to local charities."


Support Purple Asparagus by donating your bag credits at any of the five city locations, including Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Halsted & Waveland, South Loop and Gold Coast.


Whole Foods Market has also committed to helping the Delicious Nutritious Adventures program branch out to more local schools. Starting in November 2011, Whole Foods Market team members began teaching the hands-on, healthy eating curriculum once a month, and now are active in six Chicago Public Schools elementary schools. 


Volunteer Spotlight Susan Stearn
 As a certified holistic health coach with her own practice, nutrition is obviously important to Susan Stearn. But while her health coaching service, "Eat. Drink. Think. Change," has many clients who are adults, Susan also utilizes her passion for healthy living with Purple Asparagus to benefit children as well.


Stearn has only been volunteering with the Delicious Nutritious Adventures program since December 2011, but has already hit the ground running by assisting 3-5 times per month with elementary-aged children in the Chicago Public School system. As a city dweller with three older children of her own (one in college, one in high school and one in junior high) Stearn enjoys being back in the company of smaller kids - mostly first graders, second graders and kindergarteners.


"One of the things I really love about the program is how Purple Asparagus goes back month after month to the same children," said Stearn. "There's a repetition and a rhythm throughout the school year, so the kids really develop a familiarity and build upon the curriculum with each new visit."


One of her favorite parts about volunteering is seeing how affectionate and excited the children become about having visitors. Remembering back to her own school days, Stearn recalled how any activity that would shake up a routine was special.


"I also really appreciate the independence that kids are given in making their own little recipes," she said. "Giving them the freedom to create something gives them a sense of accomplishment."


Through her various classroom visits she has helped with such themes as October/Apples; December/Cranberries; January/Citrus; February/Legumes; March/Portions and Food groups. 


"No matter the theme, we almost always finish the session with a smoothie, which is a definite favorite of the kids, no matter what fruit or milk alternative we put in it. And some of the ways the kids describe food - if we ask them how it tastes they'll say the wackiest things," she said with a laugh."


What: Epicurious Entertains Chicago

When: May 5-6, 2012, 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.

Where: Chicago Illuminating Company

Why: Head Spear Melissa Graham has planned a morning jam-packed with hands-on cooking classes devoted to kid-friendly fare. Kids will participate in healthy-cooking demonstrations; learn how to plant their own herb and vegetable garden; decorate their own cookies, aprons and herb pots; and enjoy lots of munchies, including a nutritious snack pack. All activities are designed to engage, educate, and feed junior chefs, ages 2 to 12. 


$25 per adult (includes two children free) 


What: Chicago Green Festival

When: May 6, 2012, at 1:00 p.m.

Where: Navy Pier

Why: Join Melissa and her little spear, Thor, at The Green Festival, which promotes social justice and environmental responsibility in Chicago and around the world. The segment will be titled, "Delicious Nutritious Adventures at the Family Table," with meal ideas that both you and your kids will love. Joining Melissa is her 8 year-old son, Thor, who will share his adventures at the family table. 

Cost: $10 for an advance day pass ($15 at the door) or $15 for a weekend pass ($25 at the door)

More info: http://www.greenfestivals.org/chicago/ 




TIME: We're always looking for a few good spears to help out with outreach, event planning and donations. Purple Asparagus is seeking the following volunteers:

  • Volunteers to help with event coordination - for our major August 26 fundraiser, Corks & Crayons, and smaller fundraising events
  • Volunteers to help out with school programs and on our program, marketing, and development committees

TREASURE: If time is in short supply, monetary donations can be made to our general fund. Purple Asparagus is now at a point where the demand for programming is beyond our capacity. Last year a number of programming requests were declined due to a lack of funds.

Our goal is to turn no school away, and with your support we can make this happen! Be sure to check your company's corporate giving policy - many employers match funds donated - and remember that all monetary gifts are 100% tax deductible.


If you are interested in volunteering or donating to Purple Asparagus, send us a note at info@purpleasparagus.com.

Thanks for your continued support.

Special thanks go to Erin Sarris of Spun Copy for putting together The Farm Basket.
Purple Asparagus