Saint Louis University

Adult chicken
One of the six Rhode Island red chickens donated to the garden in 2010 peers out of its roost. Photo by Danielle Lacey

Earlier this month, donors gave the Saint Louis University Department of Nutrition and Dietetics program a rather unusual gift. One that will literally keep on giving—er, laying.

SLU alumnus James Criscione, M.D., and his wife, Janelle, purchased and donated six Australorp chicks for the Nutrition and Dietetics program's organic garden project. The healthy young chickens — along with other chickens previously donated to the program — will provide organic eggs, which will be used in breads, pastries and restaurant fare served at the Fresh Gatherings Café. Fresh Gatherings serves as a teaching lab for dietetics students as they work toward their registered dietetics and culinary arts credentials.

The chicken's also help control unwelcome insects in the garden, and their waste serves as an organic fertilizer.

In 2010, Janelle Criscione gave six Rhode Island Red chicks, but the original stock has since dwindled to two remaining chickens. Before this year's young chickens made the journey to SLU to join them, she kissed each one on top of their head and sent them off to college.

The birds rode to campus in the front seat of University Development Director Stephen Sievers car to their roost located in SLU's Urban Garden, which is managed by the chair of the Nutrition and Dietetics program, Millie Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D.

"Chickens dig around in the dirt, eating bugs, grubs and weed seeds, preparing the ground for planting," said Mattfeldt-Beman. "They're like little bug catchers that fertilize as they go."

The chickens serve as living examples of the program's mission of healthy, sustainable food resources. Visitors to the garden, including SLU students and "Gardens to Tables" youth camp participants, receive hands-on learning opportunities tending to the garden's residents.

Learn more about the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics online at the program's website.