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Miami Proud: Community Garden Grows Produce For Hospital Food, Provides Lessons In Healthy Eating

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A weekly field trip to a unique farm offers a group of special needs students from Homestead High School a break from the ordinary with gardening and cooking lessons.

Isaiah Carroll is chopping onions and peppers for the lunch. He is among the 800 students a year who participate in Grow2Heal, an innovative endeavor at Baptist Hospital of Homestead. Thi Squire is an educator, chef, and full-time farmer as the Community Garden Project Manager.

"I believe there may be only one or two other hospitals in the United States that is this connected to growing their own produce on campus," Squire explains. "Our CEO Bill Duquette had a vision to make use of this land, which didn't have a purpose at the time, and he wanted to give back to the community, something to do with gardens."

The mission of Grow2Heal addresses the epidemic of chronic disease by creating a healthy food environment, harvested to heal hospital patients and serve the neighboring community.

They have grown heirloom tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors; cucumbers; lettuce; cauliflower; kale; herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, and mint. There are some medicinal items too such as turmeric and chamomile. And, of course, there are pineapples. Squire says anything that "wants to grow here that we can eat and nourish us" is planted.

Grow2Heal
Community Garden Project Manager Thi Squire (Source: CBS4)

The garden is now in its fourth year and is indeed bearing fruit and veggies, lots of them.

"Everything that we harvest goes directly to our kitchen. This past year I harvested at least 3,000 pounds of produce that went directly into our kitchen here at Homestead Hospital, " Squire explains.

Executive Chef Drew Thomason creates dishes for patients and staff with the freshest produce possible.

"Whatever Thi brings me, we go from there," he says. "We've done a zucchini ragout for a vegetable, we use a lot of the basil for pesto sauces too. It is truly farm to table, how much better can it get."

The garden gets a lot of love from volunteers from the air reserve base and other groups tending the crops. Isaiah and his classmates enjoy the entire experience, including a delicious meal. On this day's lunch was a flatbread pizza, with tomato sauce made from the tomatoes brought in from the garden.

"We can enjoy ourselves going out in the open, learning new things and help each other out and helping the environment," says Isaiah.

Click here to learn more about Grow2Heal.

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