What color are carrots?” Melissa Graham bellows out to the students. “Orange,” they scream out. “Really?” Melissa says as she holds up a purple carrot.
To a group of 10-year-olds outfitted in chef’s hats, Melissa introduces celery root, brocoflower and tomatoes—and not just one variety of tomato (purple this day), but all the different varieties. The kids smell and taste local fruits and vegetables, cook with them, and scamper home with simple recipes to cook with their families. “I want to get kids excited about vegetables and away from processed foods,” says Melissa.
What else would you expect from a gal with a company called Purple Asparagus?
Melissa left her lucrative law practice after becoming a mother to start a not-for-profit Chicago-based company that offers cooking and nutrition education classes to public schools. Her mission:“To bring families back to the table by promoting and enjoying all the things associated with good eating.”
She was one of 500 chefs invited to the White House last year to launch the Chefs Move to Schools initiative. Sharing her enthusiasm are some 50 volunteers who work with Purple Asparagus in the schools and other community programs.