Residents at Southminster Retirement Community can plant, care for and eat the fruits and vegetables they are served each day.The retirement home’s community garden, which was created two years ago, is part of the center’s push toward creating a more sustainable, healthier food system. Leading this initiative is Southminster’s executive chef, Kris Reid, 38, who has worked for the retirement community for three years.“It’s not institutionalized in the way most people think a CCRC (continuing care retirement center) to be,” she said. “Not everything comes from the freezer or a can, which a jail or hospital might suffer from.”Reid was awarded with LeadingAge NC’s Dining Services Award earlier this month, which honors excellence in service to the elderly. Reid said she wanted residents to have access to foods similar to what they grew up eating.“I wanted to connect people to real food again,” Reid said. “I wanted them to taste a real tomato again.” Southminster has one of the 49 community gardens created by Friendship Trays, a Charlotte nonprofit which delivers fresh food to about 700 at-risk people every day, and Slow Food Charlotte, a group that promotes local foods. “It offers people the opportunity to improve their own health both by eating the vegetables and working in the gardens,” said Lucy Bush Carter, executive director of Friendship Trays. “We’re trying to give them access to good, healthy vegetables.”The garden at the Southpark retirement community on Park Road is managed by about 15 residents and helps serve the center’s 500 residents each day.The garden, which produced more than 1,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables last year, donates about 60 percent of its produce to Friendship Trays. When Reid began working at Southminster, 80 percent of the food served was frozen, but today 80 percent of the food served is fresh. Of the fresh food, 10 percent is from local farms. Reid said she owes a lot of her success to Southminster Dining Services Director Salem Suber, who hired her and has a similar vision for sustainable dining. “We have a big responsibility as chefs,” Reid said. “I’m passionate about a lot of chef involvement because a lot of the waste that goes through the waste stream comes from restaurants and facilities like this, and we have an obligation to stand up and do something about that.”Reid has also created the Piedmont Culinary Guild in an effort to educate other chefs on how to incorporate more fresh foods in their menus. “It’s a lot of work, but it can be done, you can feed people on this level,” she said. “The benefit is so enormous for our bodies and our communities.”
Friday, Jun. 21, 2013
Retirement community grows its own food
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