James “Danny” John ‘18 MS KINES accepted the honor on behalf of the department at an awards ceremony Oct. 12.
Photo: Sonya Booth

For the third year in a row, the UIC Nutrition Teaching Garden received a Chicago Excellence in Gardening Award in a citywide competition sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension and local businesses.

“Aside from the immense value of the unadulterated fresh fruits and vegetables used in our nutrition curricula, the garden is a powerful educational tool,” says James “Danny” John ‘18 MS KINES, visiting instructor in kinesiology and nutrition, who accepted the honor on behalf of the department at an awards ceremony Oct. 12.

“And it has become a popular green space for students, faculty and visitors.”

The garden is located behind the College of Applied Health Sciences Building. Students and other volunteers keep it growing under the supervision of Renea Lyles, instructor in kinesiology and nutrition. She and John plant, weed, maintain, harvest and prepare crops from the garden for use in nutrition courses.

Since the garden was founded in 2016, it’s doubled in size to about 1,000 square feet of raised beds, with pollinator-friendly ornamentals along the outside borders. The gardeners rotate the crops each year, trying new vegetables. This year’s artichokes were especially successful, John says.

A chef earlier in his career, John teaches courses in food science, food service management and nutrition therapy. He provides medical nutritional counseling to patients at Mile Square Health Center.

And, of course, he grows vegetables.

“I am very happy and lucky to have the work with our garden as part of my job,” he says.