St. Luke’s Hospital takes advantage of new organic farm

The hospital is the first in Pennsylvania to start a garden on campus.

CAMP HILL, Pa.—Executive chef Paul Meola suggests a few options on his weekly lunch menu in the cafeteria at St. Luke's Hospital in Easton: vegetarian fried rice, hot pot soup, and lasagna.

Sounds good.

Even better: All the squash, broccoli, peppers, chard, and kale the chef roasts and sautes for these dishes comes from a new organic farm on five of the hospital's 500 acres.

"This is brand new for all of us. It's really thrilling," says Meola, 61, who is poised to roll out fresh zucchini pancakes and tomato jam, too.

The three-year-old Easton hospital, known as the Anderson Campus of the nonprofit St. Luke's University Health Network, is the first in Pennsylvania to start its own farm on the premises.

"The time has come for stuff like this, and you can do it anywhere, the limiting factor being land," says Edward Nawrocki, president of the Anderson Campus, who expects the farm to break even in three years.

On campuses large and small, hospitals are finding ways to transform their historically bland, unhealthy, institutional food into the kind of delicious, nutritious, and locally sourced offerings that have captivated American gastronomes for years now.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources