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Detroit hospitals are growing, selling their own produce

An increasing number of hospitals in Southeast Michigan are growing their own produce for patients and selling healthy food through farmer’s markets on their campuses.

Experts say that 80 percent of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, can be prevented, or conditions can be improved, through better diet and exercise.

The latest health care facility to offer fresh produce is Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. The nonprofit hospital hired a resident farmer and this week opened a new 1,500-square-foot greenhouse to grow organic produce for patients on its 160-acre campus in Oakland County.

The greenhouse, under the direction of Michelle Lutz, will grow a variety of produce, including tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, peas, beans, strawberries, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and herbs.

“Our goal is to be a national model for how wellness education can improve health and reduce health care costs by providing people with resources to help them achieve optimal health,” said Gerard van Grinsven, CEO of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, in a statement.

He said the produce also will save the hospital more than $20,000 each year.

The greenhouse and a 1,500-square-foot education center, which cost about $1 million, was funded by an anonymous donor, Henry Ford officials said.

St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor has been growing produce on its own farm the past two years and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak has been offering visitors the Home Town Harvest Farmer’s Market every Thursday.

At St. Joseph’s, CEO Rob Casalou spearheaded the project to bring healthy food to patients, visitors and employees, said Lauren Smoker, a hospital spokeswoman.

“We have enough yield now that we are including the vegetables and herbs in some cafeteria offerings and on patient menus,” Smoker said. “We also host a weekly farmers’ market and donate excess food to local food pantries.”

The 15-acre St. Joseph farm includes four acres for vegetables and 11 for dry beans, oats and alfalfa. There are also two beehives managed on the farm for the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative.

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