clevelanders love their veggies (as in veggie u)

Like you, I believe in giving back. Whether it’s volunteering my time or the various organizations my husband and I  support, I think it’s important to help others because you never know when you could be the one that needs a helping hand. But I never put this blog to good use, and it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now.

After meeting Farmer Lee Jones and learning about the Veggie U initiative, plus the fact that program was in jeopardy  locally due to lack of awareness and funds, I knew this was something we could try to help and something that would resonate well with you – my readers. Truthfully, I was hoping we’d be able to support a few classrooms (each classroom requires $200). But that didn’t happen. Instead, according to my contact at Veggie U, you guys saved the entire program in Cleveland, raising a total of $3,820 – with 100% of the donations going towards the kids! More importantly, that’s 84 Cleveland schools, 171 classrooms and 3,840 students that will participate and learn about eating healthy, sustainable agriculture and combating adolescent disease and juvenile diabetes starting March 1. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

I cannot thank you all enough for your incredible generosity and taking the time to donate. It is greatly appreciated by so many, especially those 4th graders and their teachers. You guys simply rock and have truly made a difference. Hopefully, this is something we can continue each year and impact future students.

I also realize we were able to raise more because so many helped to spread the word – via good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth, tweets and Facebook. Thank you – just look at the difference it made. I especially want to thank many of our bloggers and media. We have a wonderful blogging community here and it’s one I’m very proud to be part of. It’s one that’s incredibly supportive, both of each other and of our city. A special thank you to I Heart Cleveland, Live to Cook at Home, Heidi Robb, Confessions of a Cohabitant, Chef’s Widow, Cleveland’s a Plum, A Girl About Cleveland, Local Food Service, Bite Buff, Cleveland at Heart, Great Lakes Design Collaborative, Garden, Grocery, Gadget Girl , Cooker Girl, Metromix and Michael Ruhlman.  And our local food reporters/editors Joe Crea and Debbi Snook at the Plain Dealer. They took an immediate interest in this effort and shared with readers.

Finally, we would not be having this conversation if it wasn’t for our chefs, restaurant and store owners. I shared the idea and almost everyone got on board and offered their support to make it even better. We all know this group is responsible for making us some seriously good eats. But they also have some seriously big hearts and are an incredibly supportive group. They made it interesting and because of their generosity, people donated even more (let’s face it – that was some prize any foodie would covet!). We started out with roughly $1,400 in restaurant gift cards, and after the initial post, additional restaurants contacted me wanting to participate for a total of nearly $2,000 in restaurant gift certificates! These awesome establishments include: Western Reserve Wine Tartine Momocho Lola The Greenhouse Tavern Heinen’s Blue Canyon The Flying Fig Fire Erie Island Coffee Fahrenheit Miles Farmers Market Jekyll’s Kitchen Moxie Touch Supper Club Parallax L’Albatros Chinato Crop Bistro North End Hyde Park AMP 150 Muse (The Ritz-Carlton) The Chocolate Bar Michaelangelo’s John Q’s Steakhouse Melange Bistro on Lincoln Park.

So who was the lucky winner? Congratulations to Suzie Martens. She was chosen via You are going to be eating very, very well for quite some time and are the envy of a lot of Clevelanders (including me!).


  1. Posted February 15, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    We saved the program, way to go everyone! And congratulations Suzie!! If you ever need a dining partner, I’m your gal.

  2. Posted February 15, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    That is so great to know we all raised THAT much money.

  3. Posted February 15, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    A BIG THANK YOU TO: Michelle, The Cleveland Readers, and the Awesome Restaurants that sponsored the gift cards. Please help Veggie U thank the restaurants by enjoying their wonderful food and atmosphere through out the year. This was a truly amazing fund raiser and everyone involved should be proud. Thank you again from Jim at Veggie U.

  4. Mel
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    CONGRATULATIONS Everyone! This is GREAT NEWS, and you all should be very proud of what you have done!

  5. Posted February 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Our sincere thanks to Michelle and to all of her readers who responded to the needs of Cleveland schools. Many children in the inner city do not have the oportunity to learn first hand about growing vegetables. The excitement generated by the Veggie U project, which brings a mini vegetable patch into the classroom complete with a live worm farm and grow lights to help encourage plant growth, keep the kids excited. Teachers tell us the kids race to see who can get there first to uncover the worms and see them scurry for cover under ground (worms don’t like light). The kids are excited to come in each day and see how much the plants have grown! The Chef’s Garden farm sends a box of unusual vegetables which are shared by the students to give them new food experiences. So let me thank each of you for your help and interest. Let me encourage you to continue helping Veggie U by becoming members,volunteering or by purchasing veggies from the Chef’s Garden farms. A portion of all their E-commerce goes to Veggie U! Our ultimate aim is to take this message to 4th graders across the nation,in more than 93,000 classrooms. So if any of you want to start another campaign in your area let me know and I will work with you.

    Michelle you are fantastic! I cannot thank you and the restaurants and donors enough but the real thanks for all of us comes in knowing we are helping kids!

    Barb Jones
    Veggie U Assistant Director

  6. Posted February 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Barb, thank you for sharing more details about the program. It’s sounds so cool!

  7. jillc
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I would have loved to win this one, but am still happy to help the program.
    What about the Super Bowl contest? I think I was close.

  8. Posted February 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    This is such great news! After two years of living in this community, I am still struck by how geneous it is. Congrats Michelle!

  9. Posted February 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Awesome!! It was a pleasure to help out, and the incentive of possibly winning giant cache of gift cards was a bonus. We’re glad we donated to help save the program!

  10. Posted February 24, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    So sad I didn’t win :( But so HAPPY to hear the program was saved!! Thank you for making this happen!