Organic Farm-to-Hospital Program Eyes Menu Expansion

“Sometimes I could take 50 pounds of something and say, ‘Whatever I had on the menu, it’s much better. Let’s do it instead.

Patients, staff and the community responded enthusiastically.

“People are impressed that we invested in it, that we have such a large farm and that a lot of the kitchen comes from the farm,” says Ed Nawrocki, president of the Anderson campus.

DeLeva says that St. Luke as a whole embraces preparing meals from scratch as much as possible, avoids deep fryers, and uses minimally processed foods. Organic produce right on the doorstep of hospitals has enabled more people to eat fresh, clean, chemical-free food.

“You would be surprised how many seniors have told me that they have never had organic products. Now they buy it in their own grocery stores, ”says DeLeva, whose patients on the Anderson campus are mostly 65 and over.

“I have a nice senior citizen at night who comes to me and gives me little status reports or updates on her healthy meals in the evening. “I lost 10 pounds”, “my blood pressure went down five points”, you know? And for me, that’s it.

Despite the premium, the organic farming partnership is a losing money business.

It takes a lot of work to look after 100 crops, grow up to 100,000 pounds of produce per year and distribute it to 12 hospitals. And incorporating perishable ingredients into the menu takes time. Chefs, for example, have to cut, wash and dry produce – time they don’t need to spend with prepackaged vegetables.

Still, “We think it’s a good investment. It’s good for the community, good for the environment, ”says Nawrocki.

The gains come in other ways as well. Nawrocki says having an organic farm on hospital property helps attract new residents and fellows and generates favorable coverage from St. Luke’s and the Rodale Institute on social media and in the press.

Aslynn Parzanese, Acting Farm Manager at St. Luke’s-Rodale Institute Organic Farm, applauds St. Luke’s commitment to preventive health. “The hospital prioritizes healthy food, rather than what might be considered practical,” she says. “And I think it’s amazing and it has to be a bit universal. I think hospitals everywhere could potentially have gardens or even farms like this. “

This fall, St. Luke’s and Rodale aim to expand the menu offering. The partnership is recruiting a fruit grower. The goal is to start with strawberries and raspberries in the coming season and then expand to blueberries and blackberries.

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