A Trip to Veggie U
How to live a healthy lifestyle one seed at a time.
Last week, I visited the Culinary Vegetable Institute on a farm in Milan, Ohio. As I walked up to the building, I passed a large, beautiful tester garden full of new and different types of chives, basil, and mint. (Did you know that chocolate mint is an herb? Me neither!)
The smells were amazing, and as layered as the colors. Inside I met Barbara Jones, director of Veggie U. She explained the non-profit organization to me.
The whole thing started when a group of professional cooks gathered at the farm for a dinner. They began talking about how they wanted to give back to the community. Someone—and no one remembers who—brought up that children weren’t eating vegetables anymore. Maybe kids would eat better if they knew where vegetables came from and could get more excited about it, they thought.
The hope was to reduce the ever-increasing obesity rate of kids in the U.S. by teaching them to grow, cook, and eat their own vegetables. These culinary experts wanted to show children how to eat healthy, without giving up flavor. That was the start of Veggie U.
The goal of Veggie U evolved into giving as many kids as possible a hands-on vegetable growing and eating experience.Originally only in Ohio, Veggie U has now spread to 24 states around America with 1,800 classrooms participating.
The classroom program is designed for fourth graders and is fairly simple. Students are supplied with seeds, an overhead light, containers, and even worms. They plant the seeds provided in three different types of soil and record the growing process. Students are also each given a “mystery seed” to plant and later identify.
Everyone is taught to harvest, clean, cut, and prepare the plants. The kit costs $450 per classroom.
In the struggle to reduce obesity in children, Veggie U is making a difference, one seed at a time.
PHOTO: Kid Reporter Kayla Gough in the test garden at Veggie U in Milan, Ohio. (Photo Courtesy Kayla Gough)