Share The Health

Promoting Health Through Resource Garden

04-18-2018

For well over 100 years, Frederick Memorial Hospital has focused on treating and curing those who are ill, promoting healthy and fulfilling lifestyles, preventing illness, and increasing the quality of life in Frederick County. This philosophy inspired the FMH Green Team, a group of employees focused on finding ways for the hospital to implement more sustainable practices, to spend six years creating and organizing the HOOD-FMH Resource Garden.

What began as a simple idea from Green Team member Suzanne Jacobson, a graduate of Hood College, has grown into the collaborative effort of Hood College and FMH to construct a pollinator-friendly garden that supports people in the Frederick area who may not have access to fresh vegetables.

“Our job is to take care of you when you become ill, but that’s only part of it. We also want to encourage the healthy habits that help you get and stay well. Promoting healthier eating through our Community Resource Garden is one way we’re doing that.” said FMH Senior Vice President and garden volunteer, Cheryl Cioffi.

The idea came to full bloom in a previously vacant, overgrown lot at the end of Park Avenue. Jacobson would pass this patch of land on her daily runs, noticing the trash and weeds that covered the ground, as well as the potential for a more productive space. Today, the lot is bustling with 13 vegetable plots growing crops like radishes, peppers, melons, cucumber and eggplant.

In addition to these vegetables, the garden has a strip of pollinator-friendly flowers, like purple coneflowers and tall verbenas. These flowers have the dual purpose of providing both a pleasing view and attracting pollinator bees and monarch butterflies.

Creating a place that would benefit both the people and wildlife of Frederick was important to the creators of the garden. With a habitat designed to attract these influential bugs, their endangered populations have a place to thrive. The resource garden is now a Certified Monarch Garden by the North American Butterfly Association due to the efforts made to provide resources that increase Monarch populations.

The process of cultivating the resource garden has been no easy task. It took an impressive team of 76 volunteers, from both Hood College and Frederick Memorial Hospital, donating 385 hours of their own time to generate the 1,500 pounds of produce that was harvested in 2017. The plots are divided among the FMH and Hood volunteers while Hood’s student club, HEAT (Hood’s Environmental Action Team), maintains the flower garden. The collection of produce from 2017 was distributed to Frederick Food Bank, Frederick Rescue Mission, Catoctin & Manor View and Taney Village Senior apartments, and Kline Hospice House.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average person should aim to consume five servings of vegetables and fruits per day. The Hood-FMH Resource Garden makes that possible for many people who would otherwise not have access to fresh produce.

In low-income neighborhoods, access to fresh and affordable vegetables is slim. By growing and donating produce, FMH is ensuring that these populations get the nutritional components they need to stay nourished.

The health benefits of garden produced food are not only for food-insecure populations; access to fresh and homegrown produce is valuable for all consumers. Personal gardens remove many of the chemicals and pesticides used in the mass production of produce from conventional farming, making the food safer and better tasting. By growing your own food, you ensure that what you are putting into your body is safe and chemical-free.

Additionally, studies have also shown that organically grown vegetables have greater levels of essential trace minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Filling your body with the natural vitamins and minerals it requires keeps your systems running properly while removing the need to take daily supplements to fill the gaps.

If taste, nutrition, and reduction of chemicals aren’t reason enough, gardening your own vegetables can easily reduce your monthly grocery bill. The sense of accomplishment in growing your own food puts your mind in the right state for promoting health.

In the future, the team from the Hood-FMH Resource Garden Project hopes to expand the number of plots to generate larger harvests and collaborate with the Frederick Food Security Network on outreach strategies. Working together, folks involved with the resource garden will increase the availability of healthy produce to Frederick residents-in-need in the coming years.

If you want to read more about the Hood-FMH Resource Garden or are interested in starting a plot of your own, visit fmh.org and search garden.



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