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June 22, 2015

ThedaCare Unveils Hospital Gardens

ThedaCare added three new raised flower beds at Appleton Medical Center to grow produce and herbs for use in its hospital cafeterias and educate visitors and other employees about various gardening techniques.

Project Demonstrates Sustainable Gardening Practices

ThedaCare added three new raised flower beds at Appleton Medical Center to grow produce and herbs for use in its hospital cafeterias and educate visitors and other employees about various gardening techniques.

Fox Valley Technical College horticulture students and staff members designed and built the raised flower beds. The college along with Twigs and Vines of Appleton donated the plants for the project. ThedaCare also partnered with IntelliGrowth Products in Appleton for the pure worm castings used as fertilizer.

Maggie Hintz-Polzin, a registered nurse and sustainability coordinator with ThedaCare, said the gardening project utilizes the latest sustainability techniques in gardening, including using straw bales to grow produce as well as using compost in the flower beds instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

“We want to demonstrate how people can grow their own food – even in a smaller space,” said Hintz-Polzin of the flower beds, which are located near the hospital cafeteria. “Socrates said food is the first medicine and we want to show people how they can easily grow their own healthy food. We all know eating food that’s good for you will improve your health.”

The different techniques used in the garden serve as an inspiration to visitors and show that “one size doesn’t fit all” when it comes to gardening, she added. “We’re showing people what a sustainable garden looks like and there is more than one way to do this. Gardening is a great activity that everyone can participate in.”

The garden uses a drip irrigation system, which conserves water, and also cuts down on upkeep. A team of ThedaCare employees volunteered to maintain the garden by pulling weeds and picking produce. Hintz-Polzin said the herbs grown in the garden will be used by the cafeteria staffs at AMC and Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah while the peppers and tomatoes grown will be available to anyone who wants them. “We plan to pick them as they grow and put them out for people to sample or even take home with them,” she said. “This is truly a community garden.”

ThedaCare added a QR code on signage at the garden that visitors can scan and receive detailed information about how the garden came together and all of the different techniques used, Hintz-Polzin said.

“ThedaCare’s mission is to improve the health of our communities and providing people with information about healthy gardening techniques is just one way of helping us reach our goal,” she said.

The flowerbeds are ThedaCare’s latest sustainability initiative, which received national recognition including a VHA Sustainability Excellence Award in May. Hintz-Polzin said the goal is to eventually add gardens at all seven of ThedaCare’s hospitals. “We hope to continue to grow this project and introduce more people to all the different ways they can create their own gardens,” she said.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of seven hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Shawano Medical Center, Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, Berlin Memorial Hospital, and Wild Rose Community Memorial Hospital. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare At Home. ThedaCare is one of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,800 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.