Hungry in America: A Healthy Difference

Please check out the fourth and final installment in the multimedia series “Hungry in America” on the AARP website. “A Healthy Difference” was reported by Homelands’ Jonathan Miller with photography and video by Alex Webb of the Magnum photo agency. It was produced by Magnum’s multimedia studio, Magnum in Motion.

The 5-minute piece features an extraordinary woman named Vel Scott, who has been a pillar of Cleveland’s black community for the past 50 years. Vel owned a successful court reporting business and ran popular nightclubs with her husband Don, a professional bowler. Now she’s a community gardener and local food activist who promotes healthy eating among low-income people in the second poorest city in America. What follows is from the article on

When Don developed high blood pressure, Vel realized that the fatty, salty foods he loved were only making matters worse. The same must be true for Vel’s customers. Surely she could create healthier food without sacrificing flavor. All she needed was some recipes.

Don suggested that she go to Africa to learn about their ancestral cuisine, which is based on vegetables, fruit and spices. Vel went and fell in love with the food and the culture.

….Vel visited China and Italy and the Caribbean. Wherever she went, she sat with mothers and grandmothers, hearing their stories and learning their secrets.

Back in Cleveland, she revamped the nightclub’s menu. She also began educating the public about healthy eating, giving workshops and hosting a radio show called Vel’s Global Soul.

Now Vel, 72, spends her days sharing her passion for healthy eating with the people who need it the most — those at hospitals and schools and low-income housing complexes. She takes a special interest in working with older African-Americans who are struggling to eat well on limited budgets.