WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (CBS) — Doctors visits at one Montgomery County hospital now includes patients getting bags of produce. This program is about harnessing the power of locally grown food to strengthen community health.
After a checkup for blood clots at Lankenau hospital, 34-year-old, Zakia Sykes gets a special treat. She gets to choose among a selection of fresh produce, right there at the doctor’s office.
“I love it. I love vegetables, and especially getting organic ones,” Sykes explained. “They are so expensive that I just have to buy whatever I can afford to get,” she added.
The produce is grown, not on some far away farm, but in a wellness garden right next to the hospital.
In conjunction with a nonprofit called Greener Partners, Lankenau is growing all kinds of organic produce on a quarter acre harvesting about 2,600 pounds of it year round.
“A variety of things…diversity is the keystone of nature, so we try and do a blend of stuff that are both nutritionally dense like Kale and Collard Greens and Swiss Chard, as well as things that are just good and tasty like tomatoes,” said Jennifer Malkoun, who is a Wellness Farmer at Lankenau Gardens.
The produce is given to needy patients being taken care of at Lankenau, and they also get pop-up education and recipe suggestions in the waiting rooms.
“And so we have some family’s that are only getting zero to two servings of fresh foods a day, and many of them are also dealing with chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular health,” explained Chinwe Onyekere, the associate administrator at Lankenau Hospital. Onyekere also says that not only will the free produce help patients eat healthier, it gets them talking and thinking about nutrition. “It’s all about keeping our patients well. It’s about healthcare instead of sick care,” she explained.
And it’s not just patients who benefit from the community garden, thousands of students who visit the health education center also go to the farm to learn about healthy eating.