The Boston Medical Center’s cultivated rooftop garden feeds patients with fresh organic homegrown produce.
Food really is medicine at the Boston Medical Center
For one Boston hospital, feeding patients is about more than simply taking in calories. Food is medicine here, and they’re getting that food from an unusual location. What was once a flat black roof provides prime real estate for roughly 25 varieties of fruits and vegetables that feed hospital patients, visitors, and employees. The farm is considered the first of its kind in New England.
Recognising that “food is medicine,” one Boston hospital put an organic farm on its roof
More than a hundred volunteers tend the garden, which includes kale, collard greens, bok choy, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines, beans, squash and a wide variety of herbs.
The crops are grown in organic soil in recycled milk crates and are pollinated by two onsite beehives that provide honey as well. The 2500-square-foot (232 square metre) farm also provides habitat for bees in an otherwise uninhabitable urban setting.
The eco-farm insulates the building reducing cooling and heating costs and absorbs rainwater that would otherwise contribute to sewage overflow in the city streets below.
But most of all, the rooftop garden provides nutritious food for those who need it most, between 5000 and 7000 pounds of it per year. That’s over 3 metric tonnes.
“Food is medicine. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” says David Maffeo, the hospital’s senior director of support services.
“Most people associate hospitals with terrible food, which is really interesting because right when we’re at our most vulnerable, in hospitals, you’d think that would mean we need nourishing food,” adds Lindsay Allen, the farm’s manager.
Allen manages a composting system to keep the soil fertilised and intersperses a variety of crops to ward off pests and attract beneficial bugs.
“I try to think of this farm as an ecosystem as much as possible,” Allen says. “How do we keep all of the scraps that we aren’t actually using for food onsite, so that we can continue to create soil and compost up here?”
As a “safety net” hospital, BMC mostly serves low-income and elderly patients. It offers free gardening, cooking and nutrition classes, and free food to low-income families.
“We know that between 40% and 60% of individual health is determined by non-clinical factors. So it’s important that the healthcare industry thinks about issues that impact and drive health like food access and housing,” Kate Sommerfeld, president of social determinants of health at ProMedica, told Reuters.
“Most urban environments are food deserts. It’s hard to get locally grown food and I think it’s something we owe our patients and our community”, Maffeo said.
There’s so much more to discover about the Boston Medial Center
Boston Medical Center (BMC) is a 567-bed academic medical center located in Boston’s historic South End, providing medical care for infants, children, teens and adults. To learn more about the Boston Medical Center’s rooftop garden program, the beehives, the cookery courses, and more, click HERE.
Eat Your Way to Better Health
This information describes how you can you can make healthy food and exercise choices. The foods you eat and the lifestyle choices you make play a major role in your health.