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Caregivers at Swedish Issaquah turned an outdoor space into a thriving garden.
Crops from Issaquah's Giving Garden, including fresh lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables, were donated to a local food bank.
COVID and increasing food prices have exacerbated food insecurity locally and nationally.
This summer, caregivers at Swedish Issaquah turned a patio and some flowerpots into a full-on garden that yielded enough crops to share with a local food bank.
Danielle McLaughlin, a social worker at Issaquah, noticed that several large planters outside the staff break area were looking forlornly empty. In an effort to bring some cheer to the area, she undertook getting permission to green up the planters.
McLaughlin eventually connected with Issaquah’s Chef Anton, who grows food for Café 1910. The two undertook the project of expanding the garden space and growing more crops. The project yielded a first-year bumper, with the team donating salad greens, zucchini, tomatoes and snap peas to a local food bank between June and September. The garden also included wildflowers to help attract pollinators. The space was dubbed The Giving Garden and has yielded multiple benefits for Swedish’s Issaquah community, says McLaughlin.
“Green spaces have been shown to be highly therapeutic and I hope it enhanced break time that staff spent on the patio this summer,” she says. “Regarding food output, food banks have seen a huge demand since COVID started; this has increased even more since food and gas prices have gone up in the past few months. While it is a small contribution, I am glad we were able to donate high quality, fresh food to a local food bank that serves people in our immediate community.”
Some of this summer's crops from The Giving Garden at Swedish Issaquah.
Food insecurity is not just about hunger, McLaughlin notes.
“It’s also larger structural systems that contribute to a range of disparities. The one we tend to focus on most at Swedish is the link between nutrition and health disparities, including higher rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke in communities of color,” she says “However, we know that food insecurity is tied up in many areas, including unstable housing, education gaps, and wealth inequality. Finally, food insecurity is not just about a lack of access to food, but to food that is nutritious and culturally appropriate. Many of our communities of color are working toward empowering alternatives and I would encourage people to connect with local organizations doing this work.”
The team is hoping to return for a 2023 season of Issaquah’s Giving Garden and is preparing to replant and make room for new crops such as strawberries. McLaughlin hopes the project inspires community involvement as well as aspiring gardeners.
“If you are ever intrigued by the idea of gardening, you don’t need a lot of space,” she encourages. “Your local nursery or farmer’s market may have a master gardener program that you can consult with for free. Start with a single plant and see where it takes you.”
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