March marks National Nutrition Month. Learn more about a wellness initiative that’s helping Burke employees stay happy and healthy.
In 2011, Patricia Coar, MPH, RD, CDN, CDE and her clinical nutrition staff started Burke’s first Wellness Garden. It began as a small garden located outside between the greenhouse and the track Burke’s main campus in White Plains. This little garden started out as a place to grow a few vegetables and fresh herbs to distribute to Burke’s employees to promote healthy eating and living. But since that time, it has grown in size and has transformed into a Wellness Initiative.
Burke’s Employee Wellness Program has utilized this garden to promote exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Employees are invited to participate in the weeding, maintenance, planting and harvesting of the garden. All of the fresh produce and herbs from the garden are given away—for free—to the employees periodically throughout the growing season. In addition, there is a “Garden Giveaway” program in our cafeteria: employees are encouraged to purchase a Sodexo Mindful Wellness item (items on the menu that are earmarked as healthy options) and then offered get a free bundle of veggie or herbs from the garden. Employees are also given recipes and tips on how to use the fresh vegetables and herbs.
The garden is financially self-sustainable and is supported by proceeds from the semi-annual Farmer’s Markets held at Burke, which is sponsored by the Food & Nutrition Services Department. The abundant fresh vegetables and herbs that are distributed to Burke’s employees contributes to the hospital’s annual community benefit as well.
Looking to the future, we hope to continue to grow the Wellness Garden Initiative. Gardens have been shown to provide a therapeutic space for children and their families and we hope to establish an education program for kids by partnering with local organizations and community groups (for instance, local schools, YMCA, churches).
Gardens not only produce fresh healthy food, but offer connections to how food is grown, relaxation, and physical activity. Lastly, offering community lectures and tours to promote the benefit of gardening will extend our community outreach as well.
Our vision for the Burke garden can be best summed up by Michelle Obama, who said: “It is my hope that our garden’s story—and the stories of gardens across America—will inspire families, schools, and communities to try their own hand at gardening and enjoy all the gifts of health, discovery and connection a garden can bring.”
-- Laura Quinn RDN, CDN Sodexo Dietitian at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital
[photo via unsplash]