A hands-on “green” program is flourishing at the local hospital. Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital (HGMH) is participating in one of five pilot projects across the province to study how public institutions can also become food producers.
Linda Morrow, HGMH CEO, said the Alexandria hospital was chosen to participate in the Project SOIL (Shared Opportunities for Institutional Land) initiative in October. The program is investigating the feasibility of using institutional land to grow organic produce by examining on-site food production systems already in place at Ontario institutions.
The hospital foundation received $2,000 from the study organizers to expand the hospital’s garden, which was started following reception of a $25,000 Healthy Communities Fund grant from the province in 2011.
Rehab patients, primarily those recovering from strokes, have, along with staff, tended the garden located behind the hospital. Given patient mobility and access concerns, the outdoor garden consists of ground-level and raised beds which contain a wide range of produce, including cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, shallots, squash and tomatoes, as well as various herbs.
Produce grown in the garden is incorporated into patient and staff meals.
Ms. Morrow said the hospital is using the grant to build another aisleway in the garden to allow for easier access for wheelchair-bound patients. She added that the hospital is also looking into other related initiatives.
“Eventually what we want to do is engage our local farmers to participate with us and combine the hospital-grown produce with a current supplier,” Ms. Morrow explained.
“Having a positive impact on clinical outcomes in the rehab program, being recognized as a leader in green health-care initiatives, and demonstrating that we’re a key player in the buy local movement” were other possible off-shoots of growing the garden initiative through Project SOIL.
Chantal Mageau-Pinard, the hospital’s manager of physiotherapy and rehabilitation services, said that many rehab patients feel right at home amongst the veggies and herbs. “Most of these people have been farmers, or are used to working in gardens four or five times larger than this one,” she said recently. “So it’s familiar territory for them.”
Besides HGMH, others participating in Project SOIL are KW Habilitation in Kitchener-Waterloo and GreenWerks Garden at Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital in Thunder Bay; Homewood Health Centre in Guelph and the Food School Farm at Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus.
The joint research team will study the skills that people can gain from participating in on-site food production, as well as the impact of channelling fresh local produce into institutional food supplies, at KW Habilitation and GreenWerks Garden.
At HGMH and Homewood Health Centre, the team will study mostly therapeutic benefits, while the Food School Farm is participating in an agro-ecological program.
SOIL is sponsored by Carleton University, University of Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier University and is supported by My Sustainable Canada.