Source: NJ Spotlight
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has announced the grand opening of a hydroponic greenhouse.
The facility uses nutrient-infused water to grow plants, and follows a commercial aeroponic greenhouse, which uses just mist, that opened last spring in the Ironbound. Hospital officials said the Beth Greenhouse will double the output available through the existing garden, allow food production all year, and serve as a local base for horticultural and other job-training and employment efforts.
The project, which Barnabas said is the only one of its kind nationwide, will host programs for disabled residents, veterans, and former prisoners. It will also allow them to expand on work done at the current garden, which has led to cooking classes for hospital outpatients, and become a critical part of the community fabric, they said.
“People still come to the hospital when they are sick,” explained RWJ/Barnabas vice president Barbara Mintz, who oversees community engagement and healthy-living efforts. “Hospitals need to be a place of wellness. This is a real culture change.”
Mintz said this work is particularly important in a city like Newark, where many residents battle health issues like obesity and high blood pressure; these conditions can benefit from a diet full of fresh vegetables.
According to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Jersey scored – both statewide and in low-income areas – two points below the national average on a 10-point scale designed to measure residents’ access to fresh, healthy food versus the availability of fast food restaurants and convenience stores in their communities.
“In Newark you can tell somebody that they should eat healthy food, but then they go down the street to the corner store and all they have is Doritos and soda,” Mintz said. “We figured if we’re going to talk about this we had to teach these skills and actually walk the walk.”
The success of the Beth Garden led Barnabas to develop a larger, enclosed structure that could help the team double production from 5,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds of produce harvested annually. The hospital hired Lorainne Gibbons, who leads Garden State Urban Farms, which has developed a number of hydroponic gardens in several cities in Essex and Sussex counties.
Gibbons helped the team transform what was a trash-strewn lot at the corner of Osborne Terrace and Lehigh Avenue, across from the hospital. The structure, completed in late January, measures 72 feet by 26 feet – enough to produce the equivalent of a five-acre farm, said Mintz. “We’re trying to take care of people before they get to the hospital,” she said. “And it’s a simple way to pull a very diverse community together.”