A Detroit hospital is taking a green step forward combining an onsite greenhouse into its wellness program. The idea of adding green wellness components to the hospital through the greenhouse was always part of the vision. Funding was an issue and eventually an anonymous donor donated the funds. The greenhouse and educational center is now a reality at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in Detroit.
Boasting five types of kale, 23 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, strawberry plants, microgreens, and five varieties each of squash, eggplant, hot and sweet peppers, basil and more, the greenhouse features an extensive hydroponics system and an exquisite lobby for entertaining, teaching kids and hosting events.
The greenhouse’s manager and gardener, Michelle Lutz, said in an interview with AltHealthWORKS.com that the onsite greenhouse grew from a vision the facility had when it first opened a few years ago. They were going to use local growers who use sustainable practices and buy food from them.
“The farm I’ve had before, we did that, we grew food for the hospital and sometimes we’d do cooking classes together, and a kids’ camp program; I’d come in and work with the kids for a day,” she said.
She said the changes in the food at the hospital have affected the entire community.
“Our food is incredible. They have people who come in every day to eat there who have nothing, no appointments, people stopping in to eat.” The cafe later menu now includes a massive salad bar using local organic produce, organic teas, smoothies, some juices, and a tempting selection of gourmet pizzas.
She said fresh produce is immediately available to the hospital chefs, particularly if a doctor recommends a patient include specific items in his or her diet to help their nutrition. Items available are listed on an ongoing basis and chefs can “shop” for free on an as-needed basis.
Lutz said the greenhouse can’t produce all the food the hospital needs due to space restrictions, but they have reduced or eliminated the need to buy some items, like some herbs and greens, from outside vendors.
She said the greenhouse also has other therapeutic effects for patients. Some patients visit by strolling through when they have visitors. Others can see the greenhouse activity from their rooms. Overall, this boosts their interest and has a positive effect on healing. Some patients say it helps relieve depression and sets a positive mental outlook. Some patients have called the hospital later to say they miss the greenhouse, which gives the opportunity for more outreach.
Lutz said another outreach affects child health. “A huge focus is on kids, (tackling) childhood obesity is one of our main purposes, teaching prevention…It’s really for everyone. We want to show a way to grow better, eat better, avoid chronic diseases and to heal if you have chronic diseases. Food is medicine, and that’s the component of our wellness program at the greenhouse.”
She said that overall, a positive feeling come from the greenhouse program. “it’s nice you can go to a place where the food is going to be good for you and it’s going to actually do something for your body while you’re trying to heal.”
She said that more hospitals would probably start a similar project if they had space and funding.