Children harvested a rainbow of produce from their new community gardens at Assumption Church in Richfield, built and planted by Fairview Southdale Hospital employees and church members. It's part of a year-long initiative which received $100,000 in funding from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota through its Healthy Healthcare pilot program.
In 2012, Fairview Health Services completed Community Health Needs Assessments for each of the communities served by hospitals in the system. Fairview Southdale Hospital looked at communities such as Assumption Church, and developed a healthy lifestyles action plan. The church has 3,300 members, the majority of whom are Latino. Many within this community are uninsured, underinsured, pre-diabetic or diabetic and lack general knowledge of healthy cooking and the impact of diet on health.
“We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to help us meet the needs of our community,” says Alissa LeRoux Smith, manager of Community Health and Volunteer Services at Fairview Southdale Hospital.“We want to provide education and resources as we increase our understanding of the ways we can effectively partner with and serve this community.”
A portion of the funding has been used to hire a bilingual community health worker, Francisco Ramirez, to act as a liaison between Fairview and the church.
La Huerta Saludable de Asunción—“Healthy Edible Garden of Assumption”—is one of the first visible results of the shared work. The garden plots have brought together ages, cultures and languages, says Ruth Evangelista, the church’s social services coordinator. Church and community members are responsible for weeding, watering and harvesting the produce.
“Everyone is on teams, so there may be some people who are more experienced, and they can be welcoming to those who have not gardened,” says Evangelista. “Others, like the kids, may speak English better, so they create a link between our Spanish- and English-speaking congregations.”
The 30 raised-bed gardens become about more than just sweet peppers and spicy radishes. They serve as a source of exercise, a reason to socialize, an opportunity build and grow community, a place to access fresh food and the catalyst for learning about health and nutrition.
In addition, Fairview and Assumption Church offer health education classes to kids and elders. “We have a children’s program once a week where we are teaching the children about healthy snacks, like having an apple with almond butter instead of candy or ice cream,” says Evangelista.
Assumption and Fairview also host a weekly education class for elders about pertinent health topics like high blood pressure, medication management and diabetes care. “People from other churches call me to see if their kids or elders can come to our classes,” says Evangelista. “Yes, they can.” What’s more, she adds, “The gardens do not belong to us. This all belongs to the community.”