In an effort to make healthcare more holistic, hospitals are now sprouting up farms and gardens on hospital grounds. Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care, a program focused on helping hospitals offer their patients healthy foods, is helping make this practice take root across the country.
The director of the program, Stacia Clinton, states that offering local produce is a logical step for hospitals, “There is an increasing trend in hospital farms. There’s a greater demand now for people to know where their food is coming from, and hospitals are looking for ways to connect people to their food more directly.”
One New England hospital, Boston Medical Center (BMC), is one of the biggest proponents and has set up the largest rooftop farm in Boston on top of their building. The sky-high project is also the first hospital-based rooftop farm in Massachusetts.
The 7,000 square foot farm will generate an estimated 15,000 pounds of food every season. They’ve already produced 1,800 pounds since June. Harvested items include kale, bok choy, arugula, tomatoes, carrots, eggplants, cucumbers, and peppers. The rooftop also has a set of two new beehives that will produce honey for the hospital.
The fresh produce will go to the hospital’s patients, but the BMC has also found other uses for the farm as well. There’s a Demonstration Kitchen using the fresh ingredients at the hospital, which allows people to visit the rooftop and learn about cooking with seasonal and healthy ingredients. This allows people who normally live on microwaved and fast food to get hands-on experience to learn how to grow and cook food. The farm also benefits BMC’s preventative food pantry which gives low-income patients access to fresh food.
BMC senior director of support services, David Maffeo, explains why the hospital decided to take on this project, “The goal with our rooftop farm is to provide fresh, local produce to as many of our patients, employees, and community members as possible. This initiative supports our mission to address social determinants of health by improving access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and it is a perfect example of BMC’s dedication to sustainability and green efforts.”
As doctors and nurses may not make the best farmers, BMC teamed up with experts Lindsay Allen and John Stoddard from Higher Ground Farm (HGF). They specialize in designing and installing organic rooftop farms in the Boston area. BMC works with a farm manager to oversee the crops.
The hospital’s attempts at sustainability do not stop there, as they’re planning to use solar power in hopes of becoming the first carbon-neutral hospital in New England by 2018. Several environmental groups have already acknowledged the hospital’s green efforts, and BMC was named one of the 50 greenest hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review.
What are your thoughts?