Board of Directors
Lori Renzi, Board Chair
Lori is a marketing professional who is passionate about connecting consumers with brands that help them live healthier, more peaceful lives. She has had careers in business development, human resource utilization, and restaurant ownership as well. Lori enjoys sharing helpful information with the public and has been interviewed numerous times on network television, including NBC Nightly News and CBS Sunday Morning on important issues facing consumers, and is excited about sharing Purple Asparagus’ mission with Chicago residents. Purple Asparagus allows Lori the chance to combine her desire to help children become healthier, happier, independent adults with her conviction for changing the way families eat today.
Liz Traines, Treasurer
Liz believes people deserve to enjoy each drink, meal or snack they eat; food can be energizing, satisfying, and vital in promoting a high performing, fulfilling, and healthy lifestyle. She joined the organization because she believes the strong foundation in health and nutrition that Purple Asparagus promotes can create a world of difference in children’s lives and will ultimately improve the health and productivity of Chicago. From a professional standpoint, Liz runs her own Health Coaching practice and leverages her past corporate finance career to help busy professionals lose weight, slow down, relax and ultimately live healthy, fulfilling lives. In her spare time, you can find Liz traveling, working out on the lake path, enjoying the farmer’s market, or trying a new Chicago restaurant. Liz’s favorite vegetable is roasted Brussels sprouts.
Robin Skiadas, Volunteer Coordinator
After volunteering in a classroom for Delicious Nutritious Adventures, Robin knew she found a cause worth pursuing. Passionate about cooking and healthy living, Robin loves helping kids get excited about eating and preparing food that is good for them and the planet. Her professional experience is in marketing research for food industry clients. She recently completed a certificate program in plant-based nutrition from eCornell and she is working toward her yoga teacher-training certification. As a volunteer coordinator for Purple Asparagus, Robin enjoys interacting with great people who share a similar passion for nutrition education.
Robin lives in Glencoe cooking up her own delicious adventures for her husband and daughters. She enjoys the challenge of preparing tasty foods that are dairy, egg and nut-free due to her daughter’s severe food allergies. At the moment her favorite vegetable is kale.
Laura Mueller, Special Events
Laura Mueller comes to Purple Asparagus with a long and successful tenure in fundraising in the Chicago Public School system. She was recently the Fundraising Chair and Board Member of the Friends of Bell from 2008-2015. Previous to her move to non-profit income development, Laura was in the hospitality industry and served as the National Marketing Director for Entertainment Cruises, where she oversaw advertising, marketing, public relations, menu development and event development for the national chain. Laura is passionate about healthy eating and living. A life-long vegetarian and passionate home cook, she is thrilled to work with Purple Asparagus and engage young children in the joy of cooking real food, especially their vegetables! Laura believes cooking is an art form and should be fun and fulfilling for the whole family. Laura also enjoys all aspects of event planning and is known for hosting elaborate theme parties in her home. She brings this enthusiasm for food and fundraising talent to Purple Asparagus. While it is hard to choose a favorite child, Laura says her favorite vegetable is tie between butternut squash and Japanese eggplant.
Vova Kagan, Development
Vova Kagan joined the board after 3 years of supporting Purple Asparagus. He spreads the message whenever he gets chance, whether he is wearing a purple apron at a community event or hosting friends for dinner. Growing up in an immigrant household, the importance of healthy eating & cooking was instilled in him at an early age. Recognizing the value of that informal education he became interested in teaching Chicago children about the benefits & joys of good food. In his day to day life Vova develops mobile wellness programs that empower users to create healthy eating & exercise habits with the goal of preventing chronic conditions like diabetes. He believes that exposing children to the beauty of fresh fruits & vegetables is the most effective way to build a healthier generation that cares about sustainable food. Vova can usually be found sailing in the summer or figuring out how to sneak beets into a dish. Beet pizza anyone?
Claudia Martin comes to the board in her third year as a Lead Instructor with Delicious Nutritious Adventures, where she has shown great enthusiasm for Purple Asparagus. When her son was born almost ten years ago, she and her family committed to the idea that they would all eat the same thing – no special “kiddie” food. Their diet has morphed over the years to a plant based whole foods diet and she has seen the benefit in her family’s health. She feels strongly that exposure to fruits and vegetables should not be limited to the privileged few. As an interior designer by profession, Claudia focuses a lot on lifestyle – how does your home makes you feel, how productive is your workspace – but she really believes that the energy you radiate starts with diet and exercise. When not working, Claudia likes to run along the lake, travel, juice vegetables, and chop. Chopping is like meditation for her and has the added bonus of resulting in tasty salads. Claudia’s favorite vegetable is eggplant – cooked every way possible.
Jill Houk, Governance
Chef Jill Houk founded Centered Chef Food Studios, a catering and personal chef company specializing in healthy, delicious foods. In 2010, she sold her portion of the business in order to focus on her consulting business, in which she develops recipes, makes media appearances, and engages consumer groups on behalf of food companies. In addition, Chef Jill is active in many non-profit organizations that focus on health, such as Healthy Schools Campaign, American Cancer Society and American Heart Association. She joined Purple Asparagus in August, 2010 as a Lead Volunteer and loves every minute. When not working or volunteering, Jill is cooking for her husband and son, entertaining friends, and traveling. Although there is no vegetable that she dislikes, her favorite is scallions or any type of onion. She loves them raw, sautéed, caramelized, or grilled.