New Baptist Health rooftop garden opens up to patients

The produce from the garden will be included in the Baptist Health Food Rx program, which provides food-insecure patients with a three-day food supply.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Baptist Health-Fort Smith opened a new rooftop garden at the Marvin Altman Fitness Center with hopes of addressing and combating the issue of food insecurity among its patients by offering fruits and vegetables.

The rooftop garden will be “the first of its kind” in Arkansas and “one of 25” in the nation, Baptist said.  

The produce from the garden will be included in the Baptist Health Food Rx program. The program provides discharged patients who have been identified as food insecure with a three-day food supply for a family of four.

Hannah Schultz, a graduate assistant at Baptist Health-Fort Smith, started researching and planning the garden in July. Volunteers from Baptist Health and the River Valley Master Gardeners officially began planting Swiss chard, turnips, and beets at the end of October for a winter harvest. The garden has the potential to hold 27 different crops.

According to Baptist Health’s press release, the River Valley’s food insecurity is 40 times higher than the national average, and poor health can be a direct result of food insecurity. 

“We want to be able to serve our patients beyond the walls of our hospitals and clinics,” Jeff Carrier, Western Region president of Baptist Health, said. “The produce from this garden will allow us to enrich our connection with our community and encourage healthy habits.”

Schultz said the next planting cycle will be in February, and the garden will offer spinach and potatoes. After that, volunteers will plant broccoli, asparagus, onions, kale, and other fruits and vegetables.

Home Depot, Sutherlands, Atwoods, Yeager Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, Waldrod’s, and Farmers Co-Op in Fort Smith and Van Buren helped contribute supplies for the garden. The Arvest Foundation also granted $2,500 to the Baptist Health Foundation to support the garden’s intentions. 

“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,” Roger Holroy, president of Arvest Bank in the Fort Smith and River Valley Region, said.

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