A pot, some soil, water, and a handful of seeds can turn into a sustainable source of healthy, convenient food on a budget. On Wednesday, St. Catherine Hospital partnered with a Lake County Master Gardener and Purdue Extension wellness coordinator and the City of East Chicago Parks and Recreation Department Greenhouse and Aqua Garden manager to demonstrate that process and help community members start eating healthier.
The event, called Let It Grow, is the third in a series designed to help people learn step-by-step how to improve their eating habits. Planting pots, soil and seeds were provided to the more 50 attendees for a hands-on lesson about container gardening. They were given tips on how to maintain the seedlings, put their container garden in properly lit areas of their kitchen or patio and how to maintain moisture levels in their grown plants.
Several varieties of vegetables and herbs were available to grow such as peppers, lettuce, peas and basil. Each attendee went home with a plant and an array of tips on not only how to grow the vegetable or herb, but how to use it to prepare food. One take-home recipe for salad was “Cilantro Lime.”
Before the group was taken on a tour of the nearby greenhouse in Washington Park, they watched a demonstration on how to build a salad to take to work or school in a mason jar.
“The idea for the series is rooted in a movement to eat more organically,” said Khisha Anderson, Community Outreach Specialist for St. Catherine Hospital, an affiliate of Community Healthcare System. “There’s no better way to do that than to have your own garden on your front porch or in a sunny window. We also want people to understand that good food does not have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be hard to make.”
The speakers explained that the planting process can be very simple. Take a pot, add soil, water, seeds, and more soil, then in a week or so, you should see sprouts. Purdue Extension works closely with master gardeners to help spread interest in home-grown food, and was excited to partner with St. Catherine Hospital and Community Healthcare System dietitians to reach a very important audience.
“We want to improve the health and nutrition of residents in East Chicago by helping them make healthy and easy choices” said Veronica Jalomo, Community Wellness Coordinator for Purdue Extension. “We don’t have accessibility to certain vegetables in the area, as parts of East Chicago are food deserts. So this project is a way people can start their own gardens at home to help alleviate that.”
Participants asked questions, learned tips and tricks, and got their hands dirty planting seeds that they were free to take home. They also learned how they could use their new gardening skills to assemble healthy and low cost snacks and salads. Community Healthcare System registered dietitians Julie Santana, RD, and Rachael Savage, RD, demonstrated how to use old containers like Starbucks cups into a convenient lunch box.
“I really wanted to participate because it’s geared towards health and wellness, but also because it’s interactive and hands-on. I’m all for education,” said attendee Brandy Boyd. “I grew up with my grandmother being very involved in gardening—she had a green thumb. I’m hoping that she’s rubbed off on me a bit.”
Half of the supplies provided were donated Allen Landscape. The next class in St. Catherine Hospital's Healthy Eating Series will be held in August. To learn more about Community Healthcare System events, please visit www.COMHS.org and the CHSHospitals Facebook page.