Hospitals Moving Toward Onsite Farms to Improve Food Quality

Farm-to-hospital may be the next big trend in helping hospital patients get healthier.

by Dani Yokhna

If you’ve ever stayed at a hospital, chances are you weren’t entirely satisfied with the food you were given. Perhaps you went so far as having a friend or relative pick you up something from a nearby restaurant and bring it to you. Hospitals are aware of the food complaint and some are looking to change it.

St. Luke’s in Bethlehem, Pa., is one such hospital. They started sending new mothers home with baskets full of recipes, information on healthy eating and fresh produce, Civil Eats reports. They’ve also incorporated 44,000 pounds of fresh produce into meals for patients, their cafeteria menu and weekly farmers market booths. The produce was not purchased at a grocery store, but rather, it came from the hospital’s 10-acre organic farm that sits on the grounds of St. Luke’s Anderson campus. They’ve been running the farm since last year. To get started, they partnered with the Rodale Institute, which helped implement the agricultural side of things. The hospital spent an initial $125,000 to start the farm and says it costs more to grow the food than it does to buy it, but it’s worth it for a healthier diet, Civil Eats reports.

“Our mission is to provide great healthcare and part of that is educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet,” Anderson campus president Ed Nawrocki told Civil Eats. “One of the best ways to do that is to lead by example and show them how delicious produce grown on our farm tastes.”

St. Luke’s isn’t the only hospital utilizing farms. The University of Wisconsin Hospital buys its produce from local farms. Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island and Watertown Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin have started farms on their own campuses. Both of these hospitals are replacing packaged produce with the produce from their farms for patient meals. St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan has a 25-acre onsite farm that started as a 10-acre farm in 2010. The farm includes four beehives and three hoop houses and grows strawberries, basil, fresh spinach, collard greens and garlic that is used for patient and staff meals as well as healthy eating education.

Hospitals Moving Toward Onsite Farms to Improve Food Quality (

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“Hippocrates talked about food as medicine and we believe that to be true,” Rodale Institute executive director Mark Smallwood told Civil Eats. “There is a paradigm shift happening and hospitals are realizing the value of producing fresh, local, organic food to serve to their patients.”

What do you think of this new trend in hospital food? Do you think every hospital should provide fresh food from their own farms?


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