June 2015
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How Are We Doing?

Want to know how we're making a difference? 

Click here to see the University of Chicago's  findings  about the impact of our Delicious Nutritious Adventures program.


The pools are open, gardens are in full bloom and school is finally out - which means summer is officially here! These months are an especially treasured time for us at Purple Asparagus - and not for the reasons you might think.


Of course, we're so proud of finishing up a full year of programming and have been inspired watching children get excited about fresh fruits and vegetables just as they start to come into season. But as the classroom activity comes to a slowdown in the summer, we use these months to refocus on how we can take our organization to the next level.


We're been celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Purple Asparagus, and it's really brought to mind how much we've grown as an organization. In the past decade, we've progressed from a one-woman show to a large and dedicated group full of passionate volunteers and three staff members. And as we close out another successful year and look ahead to the 2015-16 school year, we welcome your support so we can expand our reach to empower even more students and families.


This month, while we ease into the rhythms of summer, we're eager to share some ways you can support us, including, attending Corks & Crayons or making a donation (any size).  We also wanted to share an end-of-year wrap-up and shine the spotlight on two great friends of the organization.  And finally, we share with you the recipe for our tasty Carrot Tacos, one of our classroom favorites this year.  Enjoy!



Melissa Graham
Head Spear, Purple Asparagus

Corks & Crayons, Sunday, August 23



Our annual celebration and fundraiser is back again with fun for all ages. The 11th annual Corks and Crayons will take place on Sunday, August 23, 2015 from 3-6 p.m. All proceeds from the event benefit Purple Asparagus.


What you'll find: Tasting stations from some of Chicago's top chefs and restaurants, wine from Candid Wines, beer from Ale Syndicate, cocktails, and delicious non-alcoholic beverages.


What you'll do: Eat, drink, mingle and take advantage of activities for the whole family like a mini farmers' market, tours of the LEED-certified Green Exchange building, a photo booth, live music, a silent auction and prizes, and singing and dancing for the kids from Miss Jamie.

Who you'll see: About 250 attendees of all ages and eats from:

How to help:  

  • Attend!            PURCHASE TICKETS HERE
  • Sponsoring the event.
  • Donating gifts and prizes for the silent auction to be held at the event and online. We are happy to pick up any items you may donate.
  • Becoming a table sponsor.  Do you have a product you'd like to share with our attendees?  If so, consider purchasing a table and interacting with our attendees.
If you are interested in lending your support to this fundraising event, please contact   More information about sponsoring, donating, and becoming a table sponsor can be found here.  All contributions will be acknowledged on social media and are are fully deductible to the extent of the law.


Event details: Hosted by Momma Cuisine, Corks and Crayons will take place on Sunday, August 23, 2015 from 3-6 p.m. at the Greenhouse Loft (inside The Green Exchange at 2545 W. Diversey Ave.). Tickets are $75 for adults, including all food and drink, and $15 for children ages 5-18. Children 5 and under are free. Find out more, bid on silent auction items or purchase tickets at 


Give $10 and Win!


Over the past decade, Purple Asparagus has given tens of thousands of Chicago Public Schools students the chance to get excited about eating healthy and trying new foods.  We've accomplished a lot, and will do even more in the next 10 years.

We're asking you to share our enthusiasm and support Purple Asparagus by donating $10 to our cause today


For every $10 you give, we'll put your name into a drawing* for a chance to win two tickets to Corks & Crayons, Purple Asparagus' annual fundraiser - a $150 value. The more money you donate, the better your chances of winning, so give generously!


And be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn some fun facts about how our organization has grown over the past decade. Without your help, we could not have accomplished our goals over the last 10 years.

Thank you!


*In order to be eligible for the drawing, donations must be made by 9:00pm on Tuesday, June 23. Winners will be notified by email.

End of Year Update

After nine months of polite bites in the "No-Yuck Zone, our Delicious Nutritious Adventurers have become savvy food explorers!


The end of the school year is always bittersweet for Purple Asparagus. Our little spears tasted more than 36 "new-to-them" foods this year, and were involved in the creation of about 22 recipes. To increase engagement with students and their families over the summer, they received their very own recipe books with a collection of 36 nutritious favorites to cook at home.


Every year, we are sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but wish them a happy, healthy summer and look forward to what's ahead in the coming school year.



Donor Spotlight


For the Tengelsen Family, who are committed to giving back, philanthropy means providing support, resources and funding to nonprofit organizations whose work aligns with their mission. With a focus on inner city, under-served youth, the Tengelsen Family Foundation targets three areas of giving: education, childhood obesity, and mental health.

"Our approach to charitable giving includes both financial and organizational support," said executive director, Sabrina Tengelsen Guthrie, who has worked on both the fundraising and grant making side of philanthropy for well over a decade.


"In addition to providing funding, we understand there are challenges in running a sustainable nonprofit and we are committed to helping to address and find solutions to those issues."

The Tengelsen Family Foundation joined forces with Purple Asparagus in 2012. After spending time getting to know Melissa Graham and observing the Delicious, Nutritious Adventures program, it was clear to Sabrina that Purple Asparagus filled an important void in the area of educating children and their families about nutrition and healthy eating.

Sabrina particularly enjoyed being in the classroom, watching as the children tried different foods and shared their observations about the taste and texture. She also loved seeing the printed materials, including recipes that were sent home with the kids.


"There are many issues contributing to unhealthy eating within Chicago's inner city: education, access, affordability and knowing how to prepare new foods. I think Purple Asparagus is doing a great job addressing many of those needs, which is a win- win for everyone," said Sabrina.


Recently, the Tengelsen Family Foundation provided a grant for Purple Asparagus to implement their first summer program at the Lakeview YMCA. "We are excited to see Delicious, Nutritious Adventures expand into a summer program. This opportunity will expose a new group of children and their parents to information about nutrition and healthy eating and will, hopefully, become a model for other programming outside of the classroom setting," said Sabrina.

To learn more about Purple Asparagus' fundraising needs and ways you can get involved, email

Volunteer Spotlight 

A passion for reaching children by encouraging healthy habits is one that can span great distances. Just ask Jeanne Marita, a Purple Asparagus volunteer living in Austin, Texas.

Currently pursuing her PhD in health behavior and health education, Jeanne has a background in curriculum development drawn from her experience as an elementary school teacher and assistant principal. When Purple Asparagus was in need of more structured and streamlined curriculum it could use to scale across multiple schools and classrooms, Jeanne worked with head spear Melissa Graham to put their ideas on paper.


"Like any writing project, you have to have the vision for how you want it to look and flow, but you also have to be somewhat intuitive to how the person is going to interpret what you're writing in order to deliver it," said Jeanne.


At the end of the project, all lessons followed a common pattern and schedule so teachers knew the routines and volunteers could anticipate the flow and pace of the lesson. They added objectives so teachers knew what the students should be learning, and also further outlined steps and activities to enrich the learning experience.


One of the best parts of working closely with Purple Asparagus was getting to combine their respective abilities to create something greater than the sum of its parts.


"I had no background in cooking at all, so getting my hands on a little bit of culinary skills was really great. Melissa has a great skill set in business and cooking, and I brought the curriculum expertise, so in the end it was really great," said Jeanne.


She also appreciated the flexibility in working from home, and the many contacts she made along the way. Given the space to spread her wings and grow, Jeanne felt she was able to use her skill set to reach a greater good.


"At the end of the day, Purple Asparagus is there for all ages and stages in order to engage everyone in a healthy lifestyle," she said. "And it was a great launching pad for me as well."


To learn more about how you can get involved with Purple Asparagus, either in the classroom or on the professional and administrative side of things, please email


Carrot Tacos
Carrot Tacos
Serves 4
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • ? teaspoon cumin
  • ? teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 3 cups tightly packed grated carrots
  • ? cup raisins
  • 8 leaves of red or green leaf lettuce, rinsed and dried

1) Whisk together the first six ingredients in a medium bowl. 

2) Mix in the carrots, stirring to combine thoroughly. 

3) Stir in raisins. 

4) Lay 2 lettuce leaves on each plate and scoop the carrots on top. 5) Fold the lettuce like a taco shell. Enjoy.


See Melissa make these Carrot Tacos on WGN


Thank you for your continued support! Sincerely, Purple Asparagus
The Green Exchange Building | 2545 W. Diversey Ave. | Suite 203 | Chicago, IL 60647 | | 773.991.1920

Thank you to Erin Sarris of
Spun Copy for her newsletter writing assistance.