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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
A new garden at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center is proving to be a win-win project, offering a way to reduce employee stress, while providing fresh produce for Manna Food Center.
The new Associate Garden, consisting of six raised planters, was planted between the Emergency Department and physicians’ office building. There is also a native flower garden to attract pollinators.
Earlier this summer, the hospital’s Garden Team, led by Food and Nutrition Manager Wendy Smith, harvested its first crop of leafy greens from the garden. The hospital donated 44 containers of lettuce, kale, Swiss chard and bush beans to Manna.
The garden was created in collaboration with the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, with support from the Prince Charitable Trust.
Smith said the idea was to increase employee morale, but surveys before and after the garden was created “found that people were already pretty happy here.”
She added, “But, we did have quite a few employees work in the garden or even just walk outside to look at it as a way of relieving stress.”
Connie Stone, MedStar Montgomery’s vice president of patient care services, was instrumental in getting the program started.
“It took a couple of years to get it going,” she said. “The idea came out of an employee wellness program as a way to help people de-stress and feel more of a commitment to the organization.”
Smith said that the decision to donating to Manna was an easy one.
“There is no way we could ever grow enough to use in the hospital, plus with health department regulations we would have to jump through some hoops to serve it here,” she said. “We did, however, offer some of the herbs to our employees, and they really seemed to appreciate that.”
MedStar Montgomery already had programs in place to support Manna Food Center’s mission to fight hunger.
A team of hospital employees volunteer monthly at Manna’s warehouse sorting donated food.
In addition, for the past three years, the hospital has supported Manna’s Smart Sacks program, which provides a bag of food to elementary-school children who qualify for the Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) program each Friday.
The hospital’s most recent drive collected $3,500 and 700 pounds of food, which will support 21 children in the Smart Sacks program for the coming school year.
Stephanie Hubbard, Manna’s director of development and communications, said the relationship with MedStar Montgomery has been a great partnership.
“The garden has brought great teamwork for the hospital and it benefits our neighbors in need by providing them with fresh produce,” she said.
Hubbard said that feedback from the families they serve shows they would like more fresh produce.
“While canned goods are wonderful and appreciated, fresh produce is often cost prohibitive at the grocery store,” she said.
Manna also partners with local farmers and farmers markets, who donate their excess produce, and they also welcome donations from individual gardens.
Terri Hogan can be reached at email@example.com.
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