Boston Medical Center feeds patients with veggies from its own rooftop garden.
The 2,658-square-foot garden has more than 25 crops and produces around 6,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables every year. It is the first hospital farm in Massachusetts, but there are a handful of similar initiatives in medical facilities across the U.S.
The hospital gives around 3,500 pounds of produce to its Preventive Food Pantry. The rest goes to its cafeteria, its patients, its teaching kitchen, and its in-house portable farmers market.
The hospital reserves the Preventive Food Pantry for low-income patients who don’t have access to many nutritious foods. According to the medical center, the pantry is often used by those who suffer from nutrition-related illnesses and conditions. Patients can visit the pantry every two weeks.
‘Food is Medicine’
David Maffeo — senior director of support services at the hospital — believes food is a form of medicine. He said to Modern Farmer, “most urban environments are food deserts. It’s hard to get locally grown food and I think it’s something we owe to our patients and our community.”
Lindsay Allen, a farmer, looks after the rooftop garden. She believes that hospitals have a responsibility to provide patients with fruits and vegetables. She also educates patients, as well as hospital staff, on the importance of eating healthy foods through farming workshops.
Allen said, “I generally feel that hospital food is pretty terrible and gross, which I always find ironic since that’s where we are sick and at our most vulnerable and we need to be nourished.”
Her work doesn’t go unnoticed. Formerly prediabetic Carrie Golden — who is now diabetes-free — regularly uses the Preventive Food Pantry. “You become diabetic because when you don’t have good food to eat, you eat whatever you can to survive,” she said.
She added, “I’ve gone many days with nothing to eat, so I know what that feels like when you get something like the food pantry that gives you what you need to stay healthy. I appreciate all the people that put their heart into working in the garden. If only they knew how we really need them.”