June 2016

Corks and Crayons, our signature family-friendly fundraiser
When: Sunday, June 12, 2016, 3pm-6pm 
Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave. in Chicago
Why: Eat, drink, mingle and take advantage of activities for the whole family like a mini farmers' market, junior chef competitions, a photo booth, live music, a silent auction and prizes. 
Cost: Tickets are $65 for adults, including all food and drink, and $15 for children ages 5-18. Children 5 and under are free. More info:

Save the Date:
New Adults-Only Purple Asparagus Fundraiser We wanted to be the first to tell you about an all-new event for Purple Asparagus! In February 2017 and every winter thereafter, we'll be hosting an adults-only evening to support our programming fundraising goals. Date: Friday, February 3, 2017 Location: Ovation, 2324 W. Fulton St. in Chicago


June (and the beginning of summer in general) often brings unexpected surprises. Late-minute assignments just before school gets out, an early-season favorite at the farmers market... or maybe even a rain shower or two.
However, we hope you'll be pleasantly surprised to remember that June is now the month when our annual fundraiser, Corks and Crayons, will take place this year. If you haven't gotten your tickets yet and would like to attend on June 12th, please click here.
We're thrilled to be completing another full year of programming at 12 Chicagoland schools and 35 classrooms. But as the backpacks are zipped up and the classrooms cleaned out, this time is very important for Purple Asparagus to focus on the coming year ahead and set our priorities that will grow our organization.
This month, while we get excited about in-season vegetables, gentle breezes, more free time and other pleasant surprises that only June brings, we're eager to share some new ways you can support us. These include attending our events, donating your time or treasure and keeping up with our latest news.  
Hope to see you soon!  
Melissa Graham
Head Spear, Purple Asparagus


We've got a new chef ambassador at Purple Asparagus, and we couldn't be more excited! Tom Van Lente, executive chef of White Oak Tavern & Grill, will be attending our Corks and Crayon fundraiser to judge the Junior Chef Battle. He'll also be teaching a pop-up demonstration that schools can win by having the greatest attendance at Corks and Crayons.

Formerly chef de cuisine at Big Star, Van Lente oversaw the execution of all food at the nationally renowned Mexican eatery and whiskey bar. He previously served as the opening executive chef of the Bib Gourmand-honored and Jean Banchet Award- nominated best new restaurant, TWO, where he showcased Midwestern ingredients at their prime. Van Lente pursued his love of cooking after graduating from Chicago's DePaul University with a B.A. in public communications. He went on to attain his culinary arts degree Kendall College in Chicago. 


There are good things popping up this summer, especially our series of Purple Asparagus Delicious Nutritious Adventures Pop-Ups! Piloted at Audubon, Bell and LaSalle II, these hands-on adventures bring healthy eating into the classroom through literacy and recipe making in an abbreviated format.
Lesson supplies and handouts are donated by Whole Foods, making the program complimentary to the school and parents. After the fun in the classroom, students receive recipe handouts so you can get the whole family in on the action to promote eating that's good for the body and the planet.

Donor Spotlight

When people with passion come together, they accomplish things. To break down barriers to cooking at home, The Harmony Wellcare company, which provides health plans with Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, partnered with Purple Asparagus to pilot a family cooking program that will soon be rolled out to 11 Chicago schools.
An extension of Purple Asparagus' Delicious Nutritious Adventures program but geared toward the entire family, the kickoff event occurred on March 16th at the National Teachers Academy. 

The organization, which provides services for senior citizens and low-income families ranging from transportation benefits to healthcare benefits and medication benefits, is led by President Robert "Bobby" Hilliard, Jr. Harmony/Wellcare generously provided a grant to Purple Asparagus to support the program to teach families about healthy living.
"It's so important to teach cooking at a young age and make sure that all family members are included," said Dr. Hillard. "Lack of nutrition is the cause of many diseases like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. Purple Asparagus is an incredible organization, and together we are changing the health of Illinois."  

Volunteer Spotlight
Corks & Crayons Event Chair

Getting the opportunity to step outside her usual surroundings is perhaps one of Josephine Washuk's favorite things about volunteering with Purple Asparagus.
This year's co-chair of Corks and Crayons has a long list of accomplishments that support sustainable eating: to name a few, she has a culinary degree from Le Corden Bleu; a past in volunteering for Green City Market and as the Program Director for the Organic School Project. Currently, she serves as president at Friends of Audubon School and is an avid supporter of the after-school gardening club and classroom cooking demonstrations. However, she realizes that these experiences aren't universal.
"Sometimes it can be easy to forget that this knowledge and these habits are not ingrained in everyone, so I'm thankful to Purple Asparagus for giving me the opportunity to make a difference," she said.
As a mother of three boys, she was a great fit for co-chairing Corks and Crayons 2016, which will be held at Uncommon Ground on Devon as a family-friendly event on Sunday, June 12th.
She says she's most excited for the all-new Junior Chef Battle, co-sponsored by The Kids Table, where kids will collaborate to create a seasonal crostini, garnished with microgreens donated by FarmedHere for the event. The new family-centered format, great food, certified organic rooftop garden and numerous child-friendly activities will undoubtedly engage important supporters in the Purple Asparagus community.
"Purple Asparagus fulfills that mission of connecting youth to their food source and exposing them to whole foods," she said. "And you get to have fun while advancing that cause. What could be more important than that?"

Looking for a Few Good Spears

CLASSROOM ASSISTANTS: Want to step inside the classroom to take kids on Delicious Nutritious Adventures? We can't do it without you! Purple Asparagus is always looking for a few good spears to join us in the classroom as assistants to our lead instructors who can help out in the classroom for a half-day. If you love to work with kids and have even the slightest interest in this role, please contact  or 312.906.7622 for a more detailed discussion.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Purple  Asparagus is expanding its board and seeking additional committee members. We need dedicated and passionate individual to help us out with governance, ensuring the board maximizes its effectiveness for the betterment of the organization. We also need an experienced communications chair to over see a communications strategy and calendar that includes electronic, social and print media outlets.
If you're interested in learning more or submitting an application, please contact us at

EVENT COMMITTEE MEMBERS : Purple Asparagus is seeking fun and creative individuals to serve on its event committee members, which will plan our new fundraiser in February 2017. If you have any questions, think you are the right Spear for the job, or if you know someone who is, please send a resume and cover letter to Stephen Landfear at

Program Update

It's almost the end of the year! In May, we explored herbs, using our noses to help us observe the fragrance and flavors. Since the students food-preparation skills have excelled at this point in the program, we now make three recipes together: Herbalicious Popcorn, Minty Fizzy Lemonade, and Herby Yogurt Dip. We'll be wrapping the year up with berries (a real crowd pleaser!) to make Strawberry Salsa and the Perfect Parfait.
We also completed all of our Family Cooking Programs earlier this month for a total of 10 with our partner schools' families. We got incredible feedback from the parents, students and teachers alike.
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