We all know what people say about meals in hospitals and on airplanes. Of course, airline “meals” are now pretty much reduced to pretzels. Hospitals, however, may be following a different trajectory in food service by embracing an emerging trend seemingly inspired by the local-food movement.
Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital now has an on-site farmer working in a new 1,500-square-foot greenhouse where she cultivates organic produce for patient dining. Resident farmer Michelle Lutz, formerly co-owner of the certified-organic Maple Creek Farm in Yale, Mich., says she’ll grow tomatoes, eggplants, sweet peppers, okra, tomatillos, kale, Swiss chard, zucchini, beans, Chinese cabbage, strawberries, peas, arugula, spinach, herbs, and various types of lettuce. That harvest supplements the hospital’s produce purchases.
The greenhouse grows plants hydroponically (in water) to enhance harvest diversity and maximize space. In addition to feeding patients, produce from the $1-million complex (funded entirely by an anonymous donor) is used in the hospital’s 90-seat demonstration kitchen, where healthy-cooking classes are offered to the community.
Other greenhouse uses include gardening therapy for patients in recovery and tutorials on preventing or managing chronic diseases through healthful growing and eating practices.
“Food has an impact on human health and on environmental health,” Lutz says. “This is only the beginning.”