Baptist Health-Fort Smith recently installed a new rooftop garden with hopes of addressing food insecurity among its patient population. The rooftop garden will produce fruits and vegetables, making it the first of its kind in the state and one of 25 in the nation.
The garden is located on the roof of Marvin Altman Fitness Center on the Baptist Health-Fort Smith campus and is capable of holding 27 different crops. Baptist Health employees and the River Valley Master Gardeners volunteered their time to plant winter crops such as swiss chard, turnips and beets at the end of October.
Statistics show food insecurity in the River Valley is nearly 40 times greater than the national average. Food insecurity often leads individuals to choose less expensive and less nutritious food, often contributing to poor health.
“We want to be able to serve our patients beyond the walls of our hospitals and clinics,” said Jeff Carrier, Western Region president of Baptist Health. “The produce from this garden will allow us to enrich our connection with our community and encourage healthy habits.”
Work on the project began long before the first seeds were planted. Hannah Schultz, graduate assistant at Baptist Health-Fort Smith, has researched and planned the garden since July. It wouldn’t be possible without the overwhelming support of in-kind supplies from community businesses including Home Depot, Sutherlands, Atwoods, Yeager Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, Walrod’s and Farmers Co-Op in Fort Smith and Van Buren. Arvest Foundation also granted $2,500 to Baptist Health Foundation to support the rooftop garden.
“We are pleased to present this donation on behalf of the Arvest Foundation to support the Baptist Health Rooftop Garden and their effort to provide nutritious food to individuals in need,” said Roger Holroyd, president of Arvest Bank in the Fort Smith and River Valley Region. “This donation demonstrates the foundation’s ongoing commitment to our communities that we serve.”
Schultz said the volunteers will begin their next planting cycle in February with spinach and potatoes. Later in the spring, they will plant broccoli, asparagus, onions, kale and a variety of other fruits and vegetables.
The Baptist Health Food Rx program provides emergency food supplies for admitted patients upon discharge identified with food insecurity. The patients receive a three-day food-supply for a family of four. Fruits and vegetables harvested from the garden will be used to supplement Baptist Health Foundation’s Food Rx program offering identified patients a bag of healthy, nutrient-dense foods alongside fresh produce that allows them immediate access to the necessary nourishment to continue their healing at home.
“We want our rooftop garden to address food insecurity but also serve as a beacon of hope for our community,” said Lena Hayes, chief development officer of Baptist Health Foundation. “Together, with every seed we plant, we can grow and cultivate a community where no one goes hungry.”
Health care professionals screen inpatients at Baptist Health-Fort Smith at the bedside or through MyChart to identify those who need food. Additionally, the Baptist Health Community Resources Hub, powered by findhelp, connects patients to free or reduced-cost support for medical care, food, transportation, financial assistance and other services at baptisthealthar.findhelp.com
To learn more about supporting Baptist Health Foundation and the Food Rx program, visit baptisthealthfoundation.org/areas-of-purpose/food-rx/
About the Arvest Foundation
The Arvest Foundation seeks to provide funding to grantees who are actively working to create positive change for others. Major areas of focus include: K-12 education, economic development, and enhancing the quality of life throughout the Arvest footprint. More information is available here.
About Baptist Health
For more than a century, Baptist Health has delivered all our best in health care through Christian compassion and innovative services. Baptist Health, Arkansas’ most comprehensive health care organization, is here For You. For Life. – with more than 250 points of access that include 11 hospitals; urgent care centers; a senior living community; over 100 primary and specialty care clinics; a college with studies in nursing and allied health; and a graduate residency program. It is also the largest private not-for-profit health care organization based in Arkansas, providing care through the support of approximately 11,000 employees, groundbreaking treatments, renowned physicians and community outreach programs. For more information about Baptist Health, visit Baptist-Health.com, call Baptist Health HealthLine at 1-888-BAPTIST or download the myBaptistHealth app.