Hospital food that doesn’t kill everything it touches–this should not be news but it is. Why? Because most hospital food is well capable of damaging the health of the very patients hospitals are supposed to be helping.

The standard of hospital food has always been criticized; in fact many patients joke that they feel worse after a stay in hospital than before they were admitted due to the appalling quality of hospital fare. Knowing the critical importance of diet in the maintenance of good health, it has always remained a mystery why those most in need of optimum nutrition are given such poor food options.

So it is a joy to discover a hospital where the diet of patients is such a high priority that, in association with local growers, it has opened its own organic kitchen garden. The Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield has recently made news headlines nationwide with the opening of its new million-dollar organic greenhouse and garden, believed to be the first of its kind in the United States.

Not only has this led to a significant improvement in the quality and selection of food on offer – the cafe now serves organic produce, organic teas, smoothies and juices – but having the garden on-site it has also improved the patient’s sense of well-being. Patients are able to observe the garden from their windows, and for one patient in particular it was crucial to her recovery. She had been in a very depressed state for 7-10 days as she missed her own garden. Staff took the patient out in her wheelchair to spend time in the garden, and reported that in just 15-20 minutes, there was a significant improvement in her mood.

The garden is enjoyed by everyone at the hospital, including doctors and nurses, and also by local schools and children’s groups who come to learn about healthy eating and growing their own food.

The greenhouse’s manager and gardener, Michelle Lutz, had the following to say about the benefits of the garden: "I say to everyone this is an ageless opportunity…A huge focus is on kids, (tackling) childhood obesity is one of our main purposes, teaching prevention…It’s really for everyone. We want to show a way to grow better, eat better, avoid chronic diseases and to heal if you have chronic diseases. Food is medicine, and that’s the component of our wellness program at the greenhouse".

Hopefully other hospitals will follow suit, and realize the importance of optimum nutrition in the road back to good health.

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