The Benefit of Veggie U

The 925 Building in Cleveland was buzzing September 30 as more than 375 people came together to raise money for Veggie U, an Oberlin-based nonprofit that provides classroom gardens and science programs for elementary schools throughout the U.S. The indoor gardens include grow lights, soil, root viewers, live worms, and 15 different seed types for classrooms. The vegetables include radishes, peas, carrots, beets, spinach, mung beans, popcorn, squash, and more. Veggie U Classroom Gardens include 25 science-based lesson plans.

“We introduce children to where their food comes from and engage them in the process of growing food to increase the likelihood that they’ll eat that food,” said Nadia Clifford, executive director of the 14-year-old non-profit.

To date, 8,300 classroom gardens have been grown in 36 states. And, surveys show the programs works, as graduates are changing their attitudes about vegetables, Clifford said.

“The gala was a tremendous success. The opportunity to share our mission, purpose, and outcomes with our community is a priceless benefit,” Clifford said. “This year, in particular, we wanted to ensure that our guests would go away with a comprehensive picture of who we are, what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.

“I believe we accomplished that goal,” she said. “And it will prove to be increasingly beneficial to our future goals.”

Chefs at this year’s event included:

  • Adam Lambert, Ohio City Provisions
  • Adam Wilson, Vitamix
  • Andrew Gorski, Parker’s Downtown
  • Brian Doyle, Café Avalaun
  • Brian Okin, Graffiti: A Social Kitchen and Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen
  • Jeff Jarrett, Dinner in the Dark
  • Jeremy Lisy, Green City Growers
  • Lauren Shaffer, Luna Bakery & Cafe
  • Matt Mytro, Flour Restaurant: An Italian Kitchen
  • Regan Reik, Pier W
  • Vishu Nath, Urban Farmer

“It’s always good to give back to the community. I participate with Veggie U because I believe in educating kids about where food comes from,” said Jarrett, who served a veggie crunch salad. “A lot of kids have no idea where food comes from except the grocery story. They don’t know how Brussels sprouts look on the stalk or that carrots aren’t just orange.”

To make a donation to Veggie U, visit VeggieU.org.

— Story and Photos by Paris Wolfe