Farm to hospital bed: Medical center grows its own produce for patients

The Daily Meal

Boston Medical Center (BMC) is taking a stand against the horrors of hospital food. Hospital workers have started a garden on a roof of the hospital, harvesting Swiss chard, kale, and dozens of other vegetables - and, as a result, better health for patients.

The garden - which is practically big enough to be called a farm - is 7,000 square feet of lush, thriving greenery that will have produced 5,000 pounds of produce by the year's end. The harvest includes dozens of fruits and vegetables, and even holds two beehives.

"Next spring, we will have honey," said BMC's farm manager, Lindsay Allen, to USA Today.

The fruits of their labor are distributed to patients' meal trays - but they harvest so much that they are able to put the food to good use elsewhere, as well.

Greens often go to the Boston Medical Center kitchen, where they are washed and repurposed for a hospital salad bar.

Vegetables are sometimes sent to BMC's preventive food pantry and distributed to low-income patients - patients who often struggle to meet their nutritional needs on a limited food budget.

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Tracy Burg, registered dietitian and nurse at the hospital, is thrilled that the produce has opened the opportunity for her to create helpful cooking demonstrations in the cafeteria, where she can teach patients to prepare their own healthy meals.

The BMC is one of the most successful examples of a growing trend in the hospital food revolution. According to Health Care Without Harm, an organization that assists hospitals in their pursuit to serve sustainable and nutritious food, the percentage of their partner hospitals with farms or gardens has doubled since 2008.

"There is an increasing trend in hospital farms," Stacia Clinton, the national program director for Health Care Without Harm's Healthy Food in Health Care program, told USA Today. "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."

This signals some major improvements from tragic hospital food service standards that have become the norm. One hospital even housed a McDonald's - but the arrangement was so vehemently protested by doctors and patients that the administration has since offered a long-winded pledge to provide better food service.

With each harvested crop, BMC can now serve its patients delicious, healthful meals filled with the season's produce.

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