On a recent visit to The Chef’s Garden I also had the opportunity to learn about their non-profit Veggie U. Based in Milan Ohio, just down the road from the Chef’s Garden, Veggie U is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit, that was established by the Jones Family in 2003. It shares space with the Culinary Vegetable Institute which offers retreats and educational opportunities for chefs as well as Earth to Table dinners and cooking classes open to the public.
The inspiration for Veggie U came from a belief that diet is a big factor in many of the diseases afflicting our youth in increasing numbers (obesity, diabetes etc). The Jones Family partnered with local chefs, educators, a nutritionist and a physician to design the program. The mission is to promote the well-being of children through a healthy lifestyle.
Veggie U is a curriculum designed to empower children and to teach them that they have choices in the food they eat. The curriculum includes all of the materials needed to teach hands on lessons covering healthy nutrition, sustainable agriculture and state-required plant studies. Veggie U is targeted at fourth grade and can also be used for home school. The program takes 5 weeks. It is designed to teach proficiencies in science, math, health and nutrition.
Veggie U is ‘dedicated to changing children’s eating habits one classroom at a time’ and the curriculum is currently being taught in 1800 schools around the country.
A $450 donation can put an Earth to Table™ science program kit in a classroom and a donation of $225 allows the teacher to host the program a subsequent year with a refill kit. The kit comes complete with seeds, soil, flats, root view boxes, grow lights and a worm farm. Equipment that is designed to let the kids see, feel and taste the whole process of planting, growing and harvesting vegetables.
Veggie U’s goal is to expand the program to include all 6,500 fourth grade classrooms in Ohio and the 93,000 fourth grade classrooms nationwide.