Love of Gardening Unites Community and UIC

Stein Learning Garden

Dr. Saria Lofton, a health disparities nurse researcher at UIC, and Marjorie Kersten, a graduate assistant, along with participating UIC students, spent the summer supporting a food growing program called Grow Your Groceries under the Chicago Grows Food collaborative project established in April 2020.

Chicago Grows Food, co-founded by Dr. Akilah Martin, also provides workshops and educational resources on gardening and through visual timelines such as the garden asset planner, helping new and advanced growers understand the growing process of plants. As a consultant at AM Root Builders, a partner organization with UIC, Dr. Martin tackles food sovereignty within the Chicagoland area alongside UIC researchers.

grow kits

Dr. Martin’s vision for the community to grow their own food has been supported by other food organizations, hoping that this project expands and connects all people from different backgrounds.

“We want everybody to be growing… we don’t necessarily say you have to be a farmer or have an urban farm, you can grow in your stoop or patio, wherever you have space, we want you to be able to grow and arm you with tools to be able to do that,” said Dr. Martin.

The project has also teamed up with Chicago Public Schools to foster gardening to a younger generation. Volunteer opportunities to help assemble the grow kits that are distributed to local partners during the peak growing season, typically from early March to late October, are available.  UIC, through PACT, will help the project find volunteers to expand grow kit capacity.

As awardees of the Partnerships for Anti-racist Campus Transformation (PACT) COVID-19 and Racial Justice Community Scholar Research Pilot Awards, UIC further engages in research efforts to address community needs.

To learn more about the Chicago Grows Food project, visit their website at where you can request your own grow kit, or visit them on their Instagram page at