The forecast on American obesity is not promising, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers concluded that 42 percent of the population will be obese by 2030.
The team at Carolinas Medical Center-University is doing something about it.
With the support of sponsors and partners, CMC broke ground June 13 on a 500-square-foot teaching garden on the hospital campus. The organic garden will feature fruit trees, raised beds of vegetables and herbs, sitting areas, and a pergola draped with grape vines.
“There are close now to 30 percent of the pediatric population across the nation classified as either overweight or obese,” said Elaine Jones, the hospital’s dietician who spearheaded the project. “And that is something that we need to take ownership of and change.”
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The garden is scheduled to open at the end of June. It will be used to host educational workshops for hospital patients and community members, specifically students at local Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Some student groups may even be responsible for specific rows of produce.
“A lot of kids think that vegetables start in a can,” said Bill Leonard, president of CMC-University, as he held up an empty can of V8 juice. “But vegetables don’t start in a can, they start in the ground, and they are much better the closer you can get to eating them when they come off the ground.”
Chef Chad Thorson, director of food and nutrition services, is looking forward to hosting cooking demonstrations in the garden, teaching people how to duplicate the process at home and eat seasonally.
“It is farm-to-plate at its finest,” said chef Ashley Sneed, who left the Ritz-Carlton to work at the hospital three months ago. She is excited to use fresh, local produce and herbs for the hospital cafeteria.
The garden will be wheelchair-accessible, and Jones expects it to be therapeutic for patients and family members, diminishing their fears related to hospitals.
During the ceremony, Jones walked across a cardboard plank into the garden area, wearing flats and a black shift dress, her shoulders draped with a decorative scarf. Undeterred by the muddy puddles gathered after the previous night’s rainfall, she cranked up the tiller and walked it through the dirt. She first asked for this garden 13 months ago, she said, and it was finally happening.
Dr. Michael Zgoda, vice chief of staff, explained that obesity and a number of related diseases are attributed in part to the food we eat. After referring to Genesis 1:29-31, he said: “Food is medicine, and can be preventative, causative and even sometimes curative. This garden is not only this institution’s recognition of the importance of good nutrition, but also a visible evidence of its commitment to the health and well-being of the community in which it serves.”