Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chuck a Spear at Childhood Obesity: Support Purple Asparagus

Photo Credit Kelly Angeline Photography

Today, I read two pieces of frustrating news.

The first was a gracious rejection letter from a major grant funder. After careful consideration, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line, yet again, Purple Asparagus will enter a new year nowhere near fully funded.

I must admit that even though Purple Asparagus has been in existence since 2005, it’s only been a year since our getting into the grant game. Hopefully by the time 2013 rolls around, the organization will be more sustainable financially and not entirely reliant upon the efforts of our deeply dedicated volunteers, especially my own.

The second bit of news came from the Atlantic, which reported on a study demonstrating that kids like vegetables more when served with dip or hummus.

Here’s what I’ve got to say to The Atlantic, to the Temple University researcher, and the foundation that funded the project: No duh.

“METHODOLOGY: For seven weeks, Temple University obesity researcher Jennifer Orlet Fisher served broccoli at snack time to 152 preschool-aged children and analyzed the effect of offering them various dips.”

“CONCLUSION: Low-fat dips can help children accept bitter food like broccoli or Brussels Sprouts.”

Is this seriously what passes off as research worthy of funding in this country? Times are hard and money is tight. Schools can barely pay their teachers, much less find funding in their limited budgets for nutrition education. But we can all rest assured now that Ms. Orlet Fisher has concluded without a shadow of a doubt that children like vegetables more when paired with sauce. A better, and more interesting, question would be: who doesn’t?

If the funder of Ms. Orlet Fisher’s research truly wants to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables by children, they should fund the work that we do at Purple Asparagus and similar organizations operating in cities all over this nation. With our food service and food loving backgrounds, we take it as a given that vegetables will be more appealing when paired with a sauce. We also understand that some vegetables taste better cooked.

For the vegetable tastings we organized for Chefs Move to School Chicago, the largest coordinated response to Michelle Obama’s call to chefs, we showed our kids how to make their own ranch dip and then paired them with a combination of raw and cooked vegetables. Peppers, tomatoes, and celery root were popular raw. Cauliflower best roasted and broccoli blanched. The vast majority of the kids loved what they tried.

Enough with funding for research that simply confirms common sense notions. Instead, let’s find funding for organizations that implement common sense solutions.

Photo Credit Artisan Events

If you’d like to chuck a spear at childhood obesity, please participate in Purple Asparagus’ first ever annual appeal. With an entirely volunteer team, we’ll visit monthly at least 25 underserved Chicago Public Schools this year. We believe that to break the cycle of obesity, we need to teach children about good, whole foods and so we introduce children to the joys of Carrot Tacos, Homemade Cranberry-Lime Pop, and Double R White Bean Crostini. Just $35.00 will buy the ingredients for a single classroom and every dollar goes directly to support our programming. If you love food and care about the health of kids, please support Purple Asparagus by clicking here.
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