Hospitals turn to gardening, farming to improve population health

Two hospitals hope to manage community and population health with the principle of "food as medicine," according to ABC News.

St. Joseph's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, began a weekly farmers market in 2010, selling produce grown on the hospital's farm in the facility lobby. Since then, St. Joseph's has expanded the farm to incorporate three "hoop houses," where workers grow seasonal produce used for the market, the cafeteria, the local food bank and patients' meals.

The project began out of a desire to improve the health of both the community and the hospital's 6,000 employees, Rob Casalou, president and CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston hospitals, told ABC News. Of the more than 16,000 pounds of produce the farm has generated so far, it has donated about a third to the less fortunate, according to Casalou. "We wanted to make sure we were getting fresh produce to those who might not be able to afford it. That's a big part of our community outreach," he said.

At Stony Brook Medicine in Long Island, New York, registered dietitian and horticultural specialist Iman Marghoob drew on similar principles when she developed a 4,000-square-foot rooftop garden for the facility. In addition to the produce and herbs it provides, Marghoob said, the garden is also valuable from an educational standpoint.

"It is a big teaching tool for agricultural education on Long Island, which is lacking in this part of the state," she told ABC News. Due to Stony Brook's early success with the project, it has been granted permission to expand both the garden and its irrigation system, with Marghoob hoping to add berries and perennial crops, according to the article.

Hospitals have taken the initiative in providing healthier food options, with the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center buying higher-quality ingredients in smaller amounts and more than 400 hospitals pledging to eliminate deep fat fryers and offer more produce, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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