Skip to content

Charitable Giving


Cleveland Woman Educates the Poor on Healthy, Low-Cost Eating

You can eat on the cheap — and be healthy, she says

Vel and Don Scott were a power couple in Cleveland's African American community. Vel owned a successful court reporting business. Don toured the country as a professional bowler.

In 1963, after Don won a major tournament, they put their earnings together, bought a bowling alley and, a year later, opened the first of three nightclubs they would own in the upscale University Circle neighborhood. Vel's was the sort of place where businessmen would entertain their clients and extended families would gather on special occasions. They'd dance to Motown music and eat pork chops, chicken wings, biscuits and gravy. Vel ran the kitchen and catered private parties and events.

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 her customers, Vel thought. 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.

She had caught the food-and-travel bug. 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.  

Photojournalist Alex Webb and audio journalist Jonathan Miller traveled to Cleveland in the dead of winter to join Vel Scott on her rounds. Their multimedia presentation, "A Healthy Difference," is the fourth part in the Hungry in America series produced by Magnum in Motion for

Watch "A Healthy Difference" on the player above. Then watch — "A Little Goes a Long Way," "Hard Choices" and "A Harvest Out of Reach," the first three parts of the Hungry in America series.

AARP In Your State

Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.