Posted on: October 9, 2019 at 6:04 pm
Last updated: July 26, 2020 at 12:45 pm

‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’

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This famous quote by Hippocrates is likely the most well-known and used nutritional phrase.

David Maffeo, Senior Director of Support Services at Boston Medical Center is another to see the meaning behind this quote. On the rooftop of the Boston Medical Centre is a flourishing organic vegetable garden. The bounty of this garden feeds patients, staff and low-income earners in the area.

There are more than 100 volunteers that care for this rooftop garden, it’s an oasis in the urban setting, measuring 2,500 square feet, and producing 5,000 to 7,000 pounds of fresh produce annually. Its fresh goods include kale, collard greens, bok choy, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, beans, squash, and a variety of natural herbs. 

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It’s it isn’t uncommon for hospitals to be associated with terrible food, and Lindsay Allen, the farm’s manager finds this very interesting because “when we’re at our most vulnerable, in hospitals, you’d think that would mean we need nourishing food”. Food is medicine. What people put in their bodies has a direct link to their health she says, adding that hospitals have a responsibility to give their patients better food.

Lindsay has been managing this rooftop garden since it was brought into fruition, her farm is being used for preventative care as well as in reactive care. She says 72 percent of the hospital’s patients are considered underserved, and likely don’t have access to healthy, local organic food.

These crops are grown in certified organic soil, which is free from synthetic additives and fertilizers, they also utilize recycled milk crates, and have beehives on site which pollinate the garden and provide honey as well. 

Lindsay also manages a composting system that keeps the soil fertilized and she plants a variety of crops that naturally ward off pests and attract beneficial bugs.

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“I try to think of this farm as an ecosystem as much as possible,” she says. “How do we keep all of the scraps that we aren’t actually using for food on-site so that we can continue to create soil and compost up here?”

In addition to running the farm, Allen teaches a number of farming workshops to educate patients, employees and their families on how to grow their own food. The hospital is equipped with a teaching kitchen that employs a number of food technicians and dieticians who offer their expertise to patients on how they can make meals with the local produce they’re given.

The objective here is to not only give patients good food, but also provide them the tools, information and education to live a healthy life.

Hopefully, this story influences other hospitals to plant and sow their own organic vegetable gardens to provide nourishment for patients and the community.

The rooftop garden at Boston Medical Center was constructed by Higher Ground Farms. They work with health care, higher education, and other institutions to grow food and integrate your farm or garden into your health and educational programming.

They also have a farm at the Boston Design Center. 

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