When Boston Medical Center personnel realized how many of their patients weren’t sure where their next meals were coming from, they decided to be a part of the solution.
In 2016, they turned the hospital’s 2,658 square-foot roof into a garden of 25 crops. Patients, referred by the medical center’s Preventative Food Pantry which opened in 2001, can take the fresh produce home every couple of weeks.
Thea James, MD, vice president of mission and associate chief medical officer at BMC, said in a news release:
The Preventive Food Pantry helps fill the gap for those who would otherwise be unable to access affordable, nutritious food, and this expansion further demonstrates BMC’s commitment to addressing the underlying social factors that affect a patient’s health.
The rooftop garden contains kale, carrots, onions and other produce—some 6,000 pounds of food yearly. Clients of the pantry take home a little less than half of that. The rest goes to the hospital’s teaching kitchen, cafeteria kitchen and lobby farmer’s market.
The garden isn’t just a community service project—it’s medical. Studies show a diet filled with a variety of fruit and vegetables contributes to a healthier and longer life.
The hospital’s pantry writes prescriptions for their clients, and dietitians work with them on customized plans and lists. In 2017, the pantry assisted approximately 83,000 clients.
The garden also helps the environment by reducing the hospital’s carbon footprint, collecting rainwater and housing two honey beehives.
The idea is spreading as other facilities are turning their rooftops into farms and providing relief to food deserts. Since more than half of hospitals in the United States are in urban centers, this concept makes sense: it gives hospitals access to fresh, inexpensive produce, and their patients can enjoy the healing that comes from being around nature and growing plants.
And when patients get to take nutritious, colorful veggies home, it keeps them healthier and protected from disease —which keeps them out of the hospital.
It’s really a beautiful idea. Everyone wins!