August 8, 2008

Children’s Hospital’s Veggie Project serves sizzling second season

Featured Image

Rachel Gill, right, of the Young Chef’s Academy in Brentwood, gives some healthy cooking tips to Veggie Project participants Kenya Davis, left, and Delaney Murphy during a recent field trip. (photo by Neil Brake)

Children’s Hospital’s Veggie Project serves sizzling second season

Like the fruits and vegetables for sale in its farmer's markets, the Veggie Project has been growing and flourishing all summer long.

The Veggie Project is supported by the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt Children's Health Improvement and Prevention (VCHIP) program and aims to address nutrition and food security issues in underserved communities.

Now wrapping up its second season, the project continued farmer's markets in its original three locations at local Boys & Girls Clubs (Thompson Lane, Vine Hill and Preston Taylor) and added a fourth location at the Andrew Jackson club.

Also new this year is a Youth Leader Board and Super Shopper program.

“We've had a very successful year,” said Anna Au, project manager. “Last year was a start-up year, and people loved the veggie markets. VCHIP wanted to make sure we did it again. It's been interesting to see how it's running each week, how many customers are there and what products come in.”

As of week six this summer, the four markets sold 3,167 pounds of produce to 806 customers.

The Youth Leader Board was formed with two purposes in mind: to establish a group that would support the market at each club and to gather a focus group that could help continue the research that originally started the Veggie Project.

Youth Leaders were given journals to write about topics and cameras to take pictures and also contributed to a blog (

In return for their help, they received vouchers to spend at the market and went on field trips.

“They like to know it's their market, and they're given great leadership and ownership. A lot of kids don't know how things grow. It's fun for them to learn and broaden their horizons, and then to be able to sell the products,” Au said.

Boys & Girls Club members are responsible for all aspects of managing the markets, from advertising and pricing to bagging items and writing receipts. The children said they enjoyed working in the market.

“It's fun, and I'm good at sales and talking to people. It's fruits and vegetables — what's not to like?” said Craig Griffin, 12, a member of the Thompson Lane club.

“I like to sell things, and I like vegetables and fruit because they're tasty and good for you,” said Iesha Pullen, 11, a member of the Vine Hill club.

“I like to help put vegetables on the table and organize them. It's important to eat vegetables so you can grow healthy and strong,” said Kenya Davis, 11, a member of the Vine Hill club.

The Super Shoppers program gives veggie market clients $5 in return for completing a survey with questions about issues like food habits, exercise and what they want to see at market.

“We want to be sure we're meeting their needs,” Au said. “A big concern was community members not shopping because they couldn't afford it or thought they were excluded. Super Shoppers encourages everyone to shop.”

The Veggie Project concluded last Friday with an event at Bicentennial Mall featuring nutritional games and activities for club members and their families. The Youth Leader Board was recognized and presented with a reward for their hard work this summer.

“The Veggie Project has been very successful this year, and it will definitely be coming back next year,” Au said.