Skip to Content

Meet’s 1,000th Leader



Our little network of childhood obesity advocates hit a major milestone this week when we officially approved Vicki Jenkins as our thousandth Leader.

And Jenkins certainly fits in perfectly around here.

Like many Leaders, Jenkins is dedicated to helping teach children the importance of living a healthy lifestyle by eating fresh and nutritious food. As marketing coordinator for Veggie U, she’s charged with getting the word out about the Ohio-based nonprofit, which provides elementary schools an educational curriculum that teaches fourth grade students about where food comes from. 
Schools that take part in the Veggie U program are provided with an instructional tools and a kit consisting of seeds, soil, flats, root view boxes, grow lights and even a worm farm. The kit allows a fourth grade class to grow a garden in their classroom, providing students with a hands-on gardening experience they might not otherwise receive.
“They love the worm farm. They think that’s cool,” Jenkins says. “They get to really observe the worms.”
Veggie U’s “Earth to Table” curriculum was inspired by chefs and farmers and developed alongside a nutritionist, doctor and local educators.  
Before the five-week program begins, students taste some of the vegetables they’ll end up growing. During the course, they learn about plant anatomy, planting soil, composting and, of course, proper nutrition. At the end of the program, the students celebrate with a vegetable Feast Day, allowing them to taste all the good food they’ve grown.
The whole curriculum lines up with state and national science standards, Jenkins notes.
“The teachers that do it, they love it,” Jenkins says. “One of our pushes is that it’s a sustainable program, too. We want the teachers to come back year after year.”
Jenkins is a new edition to the Veggie U family, having only joined the staff about six months ago. Although her background is marketing — she has more than 20 years of experience under her belt — she always has had a passion for nutrition and health. Jenkins is the past president of the board of directors for her local YMCA, for example.
Now Jenkins is using her marketing skills to share the healthy message that Veggie U promotes to children. “The more we get the word out, it increases our funding opportunities. It also gets schools interested to call and get the kits,” Jenkins says. 
More than 1,100 Veggie U kits are currently placed in schools across the country, and the kits are offered in all public schools in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Veggie U staff members are aiming to bring the kits to other school districts, including in big cities such as Detroit and Washington. The chain takeout restaurant Chipotle Mexican Grill serves as a Veggie U national sponsor and officials are hopeful that connection will help to further expand the program.
“What we’d like to do is place kits with whole school systems,” Jenkins says.