You have to preach by example” is a familiar saying. This is precisely the challenge that some hospitals are taking to change the eating habits in their communities. Homestead Hospital has put this initiative into practice.
Frozen potatoes and peas, sugary drinks, canned peaches in syrup and boxes of gelatin seem to be ending in a growing number of hospitals in the United States. To establish a healthy example and the desire to make hospital food more nutritious and appetizing is an idea that has conquered the thinking of some and is awakening the consciences of others.

This is how some have taken small steps and have eliminated trans fats from their menus and switched to hormone-free dairy products. Meanwhile, others have assumed greater challenges and ventured into the organic cultivation of their own vegetables. That the hospital has its own garden has come to be a challenge for these institutions whose main business is not agriculture. But they have done so in response to a trend toward healthier eating practices.

“Numerous studies show that organic fruits and vegetables offer many advantages over conventionally grown foods, such as higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and antioxidants, which reduce the incidence of heart disease and some cancers, and a reduced risk of common diseases such as allergies and hyperactivity in children,” said Bonnie Coyle, MD, MS, and Director of Community Health at St. Luke’s University Health Network.

So far, 250 hospitals across the country have signed commitments, promoted by Health Care Without Harm, to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables and forgo highly processed foods. Of course, these hospitals constitute a minority among the more than 7,500 in the United States.

At the forefront in Miami is Homestead Hospital that took the challenge of preaching by example, and, three years ago, it opened its own organic garden located next to the institution. It aims to have a far-reaching impact by offering the community fresh and nutritious food.

Situated on three acres of land, the garden has carrots, radishes, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, squash, beets, chard, watermelon, okra, mint, rosemary, basil, lemongrass, peppers, bananas, mangos, guanábanas (soursop in English), star fruit and black-eyed peas.

The garden is also used to educate the community through cooking demonstrations, health fairs, wellness workshops and support groups. As part of the hospital’s Grow Your Lunch program, more than 2,500 students have toured the garden. The idea of ​​these school field trips is to teach them how to sow seeds, harvest fruits and vegetables, and cook their own lunch under the guidance of the garden manager.

However, all that has been achieved so far is only a portion of the plans they have with this project. According to Thi Squire,  Grow2Heal Garden Manager, they hope to use the remaining 10 acres to grow products not only for Homestead Hospital but also for all other hospitals within the Baptist Health system.

Haz clic para leer en Español: Hospitales promueven estilo de vida saludable cultivando vegetales

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