Lisa Suriano began working for her father Joseph Civita’s food service company, JC Food, which provides private and public schools with healthy food options for lunch. She met with sales representatives from large corporate companies, such as Kellogg’s, Pepsi-Co. and Frito-Lay (to name a few) to promote nutritious eating.
“My idea originally, (was) just really to do marketing in a better way to kids with the vegetables we were serving,” she says. “There are ways of doing kid-friendly food — things that kids are comfortable with and excited about but that can also be modified from the more traditional recipes to be more nutrient-dense.” Soon after, her passion for eating right and making these kid-friendly creative meals grew and her next endeavor began: Veggication.
In 2009, Suriano started the program with cooking classes and demonstrations that teach students and adults unique ways to create vegetable dishes. Classes were first taught at schools and youth organizations in the tri-state area, and have since expanded to the rest of the United States, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and beyond.
Suriano has trained more than 1,000 individuals to be “Veggiecators,” instructors that specialize in healthy eating. The mission of Veggiecation is to promote and educate communities on the health benefits of vegetables and how to prepare them in simple, unique, affordable, and most importantly, delicious ways. “Education doesn’t stop at the cafeteria door,” she says. “We should also be teaching students through what we’re offering and what we’re serving about how to eat properly.”
Suriano loves to cook all vegetables, but zucchini is the best one to work with. “Zucchini is my favorite vegetable of all of them because I find it to be really diverse. You can use it in so many different recipes,” she says. She always has a bag of it in her house.
When she’s not savoring a meal filled with vegetables, Suriano will enjoy a dish of pasta or an interesting pizza with her family. “I’m Italian so pizza and pasta are just sort of in my DNA,” she says. And her favorite? Pasta with a traditional, home-cooked tomato sauce that her mother-in-law Elissa makes.
During the week of Lisa’s first birthday, her family moved to Emerson, then to Ridgewood where she finished fifth grade at Hawes School and met her playmate-turned-friend-turned-boyfriend-turned-fiance-turned-husband Jon Suriano — “We were like two little magnets that just couldn’t be taken apart.” They are now married and have a daughter, Cosima, 3 1/2.
To learn more, visit the Veggication web site.