Tomatoes and vegetables in a garden at OSF Saint James John W. Albrecht Medical Center

Helping to grow healthier communities

Purple flower in a garden at OSF Saint James John W. Albrecht Medical Center

Caring for people isn’t just about tending to them when they are sick or hurt. OSF HealthCare is focused on improving the lives of the people in the communities we serve by working to keep them healthy and helping those in need to eat well.

Community gardens are not only an opportunity to address food insecurity in communities, it provides healthy foods to local pantries and agencies that are in place to reach those who are most in need.

The gardens provide people an opportunity to gain gardening knowledge, empowering them to do it on their own. They also increase education about nutrition and food preparation and help people make healthier dietary decisions.

Growing across the OSF Ministry

OSF HealthCare Mission Partners in Bloomington, Kewanee, Ottawa, Peoria, Pontiac and Streator have seen firsthand the benefits of tending to community gardens. In 2018, the gardens they tended to provided hundreds of pounds of fresh produce to community food pantries. In Galesburg, Mission Partners at OSF HealthCare St. Mary Medical Center nurtured a garden and the produce was used in the hospital’s cafeteria, providing fresh and healthy food options to staff, visitors and patients.

One experience

Flowers in a garden at OSF Saint James John W. Albrecht Medical CenterMatt Janus is an exercise physiologist for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and is also the Wellness Coordinator at OSF HealthCare Saint James – John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac. Matt is in charge of Mission Partner and community volunteer recruitment and involvement for the Growing Well Garden at OSF Saint James.

“As Wellness Coordinator, I am incorporating wellness information into our garden programming at OSF Saint James,” he said. “I also help with the overall weeding, watering and harvesting for the garden.”

Matt recently sat down to share his thoughts about his experience with the community garden in Pontiac.

Q. How did the garden initiative at your location come about?

A. The garden came about as a collaboration between United Way of Livingston County and OSF HealthCare Saint James – John W. Albrecht Medical Center. The idea to do a garden came about in the spring of 2017, and by May of 2017, plants were in the ground.

Q. Who benefits from the garden?

A. Traditionally, our produce has been donated to local food pantries. We are also planning on using a portion of our fresh produce in the cafeteria, to use as a healthy eating and wellness initiative.

Q. What is grown and how is that determined?

A. The produce that we grow is determined by donations that we receive as well as the space that we have each year. What to plant and when to plant it is organized by several experienced gardeners, both Mission Partners and community members, who volunteer with us. In the past we have grown tomatoes, peppers, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, squash, melons, onions and much more.

Q. How much has been grown and donated in the past year or years?

A. Over the past two years, we have donated over 1,000 pounds of produce.

Q. What’s been the response of Mission Partners?

A. We are currently working on increasing Mission Partner involvement for the garden. We currently have a team of Mission Partners in charge of planning and maintaining the garden and we have plans for this year to have Mission Partners participate as part of a wellness initiative.

Q. Are there or has there been any plans for expansion?

A. This year, our Mission Partner Giving Campaign was able to allow us to expand and plan to add a greenhouse to our Growing Well Garden. This will allow us to grow more and extend the growing season into the fall. This also gives us opportunity to expand in the future.

About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: Diet & Exercise