August 2016 Feature Story: Farm-to-Table

Farm-to-table wellness

James Good, of Down to Earth Garden Co-op, restocks produce bins at the Carthage Area Hospital farmers market. Mr. Good and his wife, Rebecca, have partnered with th ehospital to provide fresh produce from local farms to feed patients, hospital staff and visitors. Photo by Elaine Avallone, NNY Business.

James Good, of Down to Earth Garden Co-op, restocks produce bins at the Carthage Area Hospital farmers market. Mr. Good and his wife, Rebecca, have partnered with the hospital to provide fresh produce from local farms to feed patients, hospital staff and visitors. Photo by Elaine Avallone, NNY Business.

Carthage Area Hospital launches new initiative

By Elaine Avallone, NNY Business

Carthage Area Hospital has embarked on a locally grown produce initiative with a farm-to-table program.
The effort is three-fold, first by using local produce in the food the hospital serves. Second, the hospital will host a weekly farmers market for the public and hospital employees. Third, an education factor demonstrates how to incorporate fresh produce into individual diets while explaining the health benefits.

The hospital is partnering with the Down to Earth Gardens Co-Op to bring fresh produce from local farms to the hospital to feed patients, hospital staff and visitors.

“We are setting the example and pioneering the Farm to Table program which aligns with the Population Health initiative instituted by the Department of Health,” said hospital chief executive officer Richard A. Duvall in a prepared statement. “Our hope is by incorporating local produce into the hospital’s daily menu coupled with our nutritional counseling and cooking classes we can help combat obesity and other health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s a better alternative for our patients and supports local farmers all at the same time. This is a first of its kind and we’re thrilled to bring this opportunity to the north country.”

The program was initiated last year by the hospital’s dietary director Richard Fields. He coordinated with the hospital’s registered dietician Carly Draper and reached out to local farmers.

“This program is three-fold,” Mr. Fields said in the press release. “First, it improves overall patient satisfaction. Second, we are reinvesting in our local community. Thirdly, it gives us the opportunity to provide fresh produce in an effort to promote healthy-eating in alignment with the future of health care and better health outcomes. It all ties together.”

A week into the program, Mr. Fields said utilizing fresh foods has been well received.

“It’s better than what we think of as hospital food,” he said. “Our menu has been revamped to accommodate the fresh produce.”

Mr. Fields said hospital’s menus will be developed on a four-month cycle to align with the local growing seasons.

The dietary director said residents at Meadowbrook Assisted Living Facility have given “tremendous feedback” to the new menu and that recently they were able to accommodate a vegan patient at the hospital.

“They thought they would have to bring their own food,” said Mr. Fields.

Gary Rosenberg, administrator of support services, noted that the program will improve the quality of a patient’s stay at the hospital.

“A good meal makes you happier and that will improve the quality of the stay,” said Mr. Rosenberg.

“I’m very excited about the program. I can’t see a negative side. It will influence healthier outcomes,” said Mr. Duvall.

“The doctors are also excited about the program. It will help develop healthier eating.”

Mr. Fields said last year they went to the Carthage Farmers Market but did not get much response from individuals so the co-op idea was explored.

In order to meet the hospital’s demands, James and Rebecca Good of Down to Earth Garden Co-op have partnered with Amish families in Jefferson and Lewis counties with more anticipated to join.

According to the Goods, their goal in starting the co-op was “to help keep the small family farms alive.”

Another dimension of the Farm to Table program is cooking lessons being developed by Mr. Fields and Mrs. Draper.

Beginning in the fall lessons will be given along with information about health benefits connected with various aliments.

“Eating fresh vegetables can help reduce cancer risks due to the antioxidant factors,” said Mrs. Draper. “Fresh, local vegetables are more beneficial since as soon as you cut at the stalk the nutritional value is lessened. The further the distance, the lesser the quality. By incorporating healthier foods into our daily lives, it improves our overall quality of life and that’s what we hope to do with this program and future classes.”

In addition, the hospital will offer weekly farmers markets for the public and hospital employees. The market will be held Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the former front lobby, 1001 West St. Besides the fresh produce, the Goods have eggs, beef and chicken for sale.

Mr. Fields plans to incorporate cooking demonstrations into the weekly market, utilizing food sold that week. He will also make available copies of the recipes he uses.

Elaine Avallone is a Johnson Newspapers staff writer based in Carthage. Contact her at eavallone@lowville.com or 493-1270.