(From left to right: Richard Fields, CAH Dietary Director; Pat Houghton, CAH Dietary; Rebecca Good, Joshua Good, and Crystal Good of “Down to Earth” Gardens Co-Op)
After a year in the making, June 27, 2016 marked the beginning of Carthage Area Hospital’s (CAH) locally grown produce initiative. By partnering with a local co-op, hospital patients, visitors, and employees will experience firsthand, some of what North Country farmers have to offer. The hospital’s first shipment included fresh lettuce, green onions, kale, spinach, and strawberries.
“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. 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,” said Carthage Area Hospital CEO, Rich Duvall.
Last year, CAH’s Dietary Director, Richard Fields met with Duvall to discuss the possibility of implementing a Farm to Table program. Both Duvall and Fields saw an opportunity to further link the hospital and the community. Since then, Fields has been working diligently with Registered Dietician, Carly Draper, RDN, CDE to make this idea a reality. They reached out to local farmers to develop a program to integrate healthy, homegrown food into patient and employees’ daily meals.
“This program is three-fold. 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 healthcare and better health outcomes. It all ties together.” said Fields.
James and Rebecca Good of “Down to Earth” Garden Co-op have partnered with over 6 Amish families. This collaboration allows them to meet the Hospital’s demand. More farmers are anticipated to join the co-op in the future. “Our goal in starting the co-op was to help keep the small family farms alive. We knew it was going to be a big undertaking, but we hope it benefits all involved,” said James & Rebecca Good.
In addition to the Farm to Table Program, a farmer’s market will be held in the hospital’s former lobby – located near their Skilled Nursing Unit on Wednesdays from 11am-5pm to accommodate employees and other members of the community who are unable to attend the local Carthage Famer’s Market on Fridays at the Carthage Pavilion.
Draper also hopes to establish cooking classes by the fall. “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,” says Draper. She says there are a lot of vegetables people don’t think about and hopes to inspire the public to start savoring these foods with easy and inventive recipes. “You taste the freshness. There’s a richer flavor and taste all the way around,” says Draper.
“As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, strengthening the connection between the people who grow the food we eat and hungry consumers is one of my very top priorities,” said State Senator Patty Ritchie. “I’m so pleased to see Carthage Area Hospital taking this important step, which will not only help patients, staff and visitors eat more nutritious foods, but also support our agriculture industry, which is a major part of our region’s economy.”
The hospital sees this program as a part of its overall patient experience. “People have choices when it comes to medical care and we want people to know that Carthage Area Hospital is making an extra effort to offer the very best patient experience we can. This includes small things like free hospital valet parking, to important things like high-quality, personalized care. Now we are able to extend that improved patient experience to the food we eat,” said Administrator of Support Services, Gary Rosenberg.