Growing a Wellness Garden at Northern Westchester Hospital when it was needed the most
How an idea designed to give Northwell Health employees a place to decompress in the middle of a pandemic also advanced the culinary experience for patients at Northern Westchester Hospital.
Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH) is now home to 35 garden beds that hold organically grown vegetables. Started in June 2020, the garden was created to be a therapeutic space where employees could unwind during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea came from Rebecca Martin, committee member and the senior director of food and dining services at NWH and Phelps Hospital. Rebecca presented the project to the Wellness Resilience and Recognition Committee that Richard Mellor, associate executive director of Human Resources, put together during COVID to support our hospital team members. The project was met with positive remarks from senior leadership, and the planning process was set to begin.
Local Eagle Scout Zachary Couzens, whose parents had been COVID patients at NWH, felt compelled to somehow give back to the hospital that took the best care of his parents during such a worrying time. While in search of an Eagle Scout project, Zachary decided to collaborate with the Wellness, Recognition and Resilience Committee and other employees at NWH to create the wellness garden, donated by the Patient Centered Innovation Fund.
Bryan Tompkins, an environmental services team member at NWH, worked to create the vision of the wellness garden. Then Zachary, along with NWH culinary and food service employee volunteers and the committee, built the framework of each garden bed, filled each bed with a compost and soil mix, and planted the vegetables. “It was all really a team effort,” says Rebecca Martin. “It was also nice seeing Zachary’s parents in such great health helping create the beds with the other volunteers.”
All foods grown in the garden are donated to patients leaving the hospital who are food insecure or vulnerable. The garden contributes to healthy, nutritious meals for patients and advances their culinary experience with farm-to-table cooking that enables our culinary staff to deliver delicious meals.
Managed by 35 volunteer hospital staff members, the garden also provides a serene setting for employees and patients and families alike when a calming environment is needed. Although the garden is new and will be completing its first harvest this week, it has already proven to revitalize the spirit of the food and dining team members at NWH.
“We are a team that cares about each other and cares about our patients,” says Rebecca. “This is a team that takes incredible pride in what they do. They work so well together, and they are always there for each other.”
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